Slower Walking Speed May Predict Future Mobility Problems

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Being able to walk outside for several blocks at a leisurely pace plays an important role in living a vibrant, healthy life. Walking short distances allows you to get the physical activity you need, live independently, go shopping, access health care, and engage in a social life.

Being able to walk at even a slow speed is essential to all these benefits—but walking too slowly may foreshadow future problems that could prevent you from being fully mobile.

Until now, there has been no ideal way for healthcare providers to measure walking ability, since it involves more than just walking speed. It also is about how you deal with your environment (such as uneven pavement) and demands on your attention (such as traffic, other pedestrians, and street crossings).

In a new study, researchers assessed ways to measure complex walking tasks to learn more about early, subtle changes in walking. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

In their study, the researchers examined whether performance on complex walking tasks involving both physical and mental challenges predicted a higher risk for an inability to walk one-quarter mile (roughly four blocks). The researchers suspected that these complex walking tasks would be more strongly tied to the risk for mobility problems than simple walking.

The researchers studied information from the Health Aging and Body Composition (Health ABC) study, which enrolled black and white adults in Pittsburgh and Memphis from 1997 to 1998. The participants were 70 to 79 years old when they entered the study, and they had no difficulty walking a quarter mile or climbing 10 steps without resting. Continue reading

For Older Adults, Does Eating Enough Protein Help Delay Disability?

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

To live successfully and independently, older adults need to be able to manage two different levels of life skills: basic daily care and basic housekeeping activities.

Basic daily care includes feeding yourself, bathing, dressing, and going to the toilet on your own.

You also need to handle basic housekeeping activities, such as managing your finances and having the mobility to shop and participate in social activities.

If you or someone you care for has trouble performing these two types of life skills, this may bring on problems that can reduce quality of life and independence. People 85-years-old and older form the fastest-growing age group in our society and are at higher risk for becoming less able to perform these life skills. For this reason, researchers are seeking ways to help older adults stay independent for longer. Recently, a research team focused their attention on learning whether eating more protein could contribute to helping people maintain independence. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

Older Adults with Strong Grip, Good Memory/Decision-Making Skills May Avoid or Delay Disability

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

As we age, we may develop certain disabilities that make it difficult to walk, climb, balance, or maintain our fine motor skills. In turn, these changes can affect our ability to perform routine, daily tasks, which can lead to a loss of independence and reduced quality of life. However, experts say that it is often possible to treat these difficulties before they lead to disability.

For example, having good muscle strength helps us maintain the ability to function well. Research suggests that a minimum level of strength is needed for good physical function. The stronger older adults are, the better able they may be to prevent future disability.

To learn more about how and whether being strong can ward off disability, a team of researchers examined information from a study called SHARE. It involved a survey of people aged 50 and older across most European Union countries and Israel every two years. This survey collected information about health, social and economic status, and participants’ social and family networks. A total of 30,434 people participated in this survey. The research team who studied the information from SHARE published their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

For Older Adults, Keeping Your Heart Healthy May Protect Against Disability

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

A healthy heart is important to the well-being of older adults. The American Heart Association (AHA) defines “ideal cardiovascular health” based on four health behaviors (current smoking, body mass index, physical activity, and healthy diet) and three health factors (total cholesterol, blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose level).

Recently, a team of researchers studied older Latin Americans to examine the relationship between the AHA guidelines and disability. Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Association.

The relationship is an important one to consider, since heart disease (also known as “cardiovascular disease) can lead to several disabling problems for older adults. In fact, heart attacks and strokes are the first and third most common causes of disability in the US. The effect of a stroke on the brain is a leading cause of disability. Cardiovascular disease is the second leading cause of dementia and, for older adults, the disease also can make it difficult to function in daily life.

In their study, the researchers used information from the Chilean National Health Survey conducted between 2009-2010. 460 Chilean adults all over age 65 participated in the study. Continue reading