Physical capability in midlife could indicate chances of survival in later life

Washington, April 30: Researchers have said that low levels of physical capability (in particular weak grip strength, slow chair rise speed and poor standing balance performance) in midlife can indicate poorer chances of survival over the next 13 years.

Researchers from the UK, US and Norway highlight that studies looking at physical capability with death in younger populations are “essential to elucidate whether associations exist even prior to the establishment of pathways between disease pathology, physical capability and mortality in later life”.

The researchers, led by Dr Rachel Cooper at the Medical Research Council Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL (University College London), therefore used data from the MRC National Survey of Health and Development to examine the associations of grip strength, chair rise speed and standing balance time at age 53 with death rates from all-causes over the following 13 years (up to age 66). The survey has been tracking the health of over 5000 people since their births in 1946.

Physical capability was assessed during home visits, when all participants were 53 years old, using three common measures of physical capability: grip strength, chair rise speed and standing balance time.

177 deaths (88 due to cancer, 47 to cardiovascular disease (CVD) and 42 to other causes) occurred between ages 53 and 66. Participants with lower physical capability scores at age 53 years tended to have lower socioeconomic position, less healthy lifestyles and higher prevalence of self-reported CVD, diabetes and severe respiratory symptoms when compared with those with higher scores.

The findings suggest that people with poor physical capability in midlife (i.e. who have relatively low performance or who are unable to perform the tests for health reasons) are an important target group.

The paper has been published on bmj.com. (ANI)