Maintaining or increasing physical activity after age 65 could lower the risk of myocardial infarction and help maintain heart rate variability, according to a new study. The results were published online in the journal Circulation.

Luisa Soares-Miranda, PhD, from the Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues analyzed serial longitudinal measures of physical activity and 24-hour Holter heart rate variability (HRV) in 985 adults >65 years of age from the community-based Cardiovascular Health Study over the course of 5 years. The researchers found that greater total leisure-time activity, walking distance, and walking pace were each linked to improved HRV, with participants who increased their walking distance or pace over the course of the study having better HRV than those who reduced distance or pace. Those who engaged in the highest levels of physical activity had an 11% lower risk of myocardial infarction or sudden cardiac death, compared to those with the lowest levels.

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The authors encourage seniors to maintain or increase their physical activity levels if they are capable, or to begin physical activity at any age.

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