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'Moderately fit' elderly men at lower death risk

Posted on May 13 2014 | IANS

New York, May 13 : Elderly men with high blood pressure can lower their risk of death with even moderate levels of fitness, according to research.

"This level of fitness is achievable by most elderly individuals engaging in a brisk walk of 20 to 40 minutes, most days of the week," said Charles Faselis, a professor of medicine at George Washington University in Washington, DC.

Researchers assessed the fitness status of 2,153 men, aged 70 years and older with high blood pressure by a standard treadmill exercise test.

They categorised the men as very low fitness, low fitness, moderate fitness and high fitness.

"To put this in perspective, the peak metabolic equivalents (MET) level of a sedentary 50-year-old is about five to six METs," said senior author Peter Kokkinos.

One MET is the amount of energy expended at rest; anything above that represents work.

For a moderately fit individual, it's about seven to nine METS, and for a highly fit person, it is 10 to 12 METs.

After an average follow-up of nine years, researchers found that the risk of death was 11 percent lower for every one-MET increase in exercise capacity.

"Although this does not sound like a big drop in the death rate, the impact of it is revealed when we compared low, moderate and high-fit individuals to the least fit, who achieved less or equal to four METs," Kokkinos noted.

The study was published in American Heart Association's journal Hypertension.

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