High Blood Pressure Tied to Rapid Gait Slowing in Elderly

Hypertension, even if well controlled, is independently linked to a loss of walking speed

MONDAY, March 28 (HealthDay News) -- High blood pressure in well-functioning older adults accelerates gait slowing over an extended period, even when hypertension is well controlled or develops later in life, according to a study published in the March issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Caterina Rosano, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues investigated the association between hypertension and the decline in gait speed among older adults, and whether other health-related factors may explain the link. A total of 643 well-functioning participants with an average age of 73.6 years, drawn from the Cardiovascular Health Study, were followed over 18 years. Study participants had MRI scans at baseline and follow-up, and repeated blood pressure measures and gait speed measurements. Multiple factors, including incidence of stroke and dementia, and use of antihypertensives during follow-up, were tested as potential explanatory factors for the link between high blood pressure and declines in gait speed.

The researchers found that gait speed declined faster among people with higher systolic blood pressure. Participants with hypertension had a significantly faster rate of gait speed decline than people with baseline blood pressure of less than 140/90 mm Hg and no history of hypertension. The correlation was similar regardless of whether participants' hypertension was controlled, uncontrolled, or newly diagnosed at baseline. None of the proposed explanatory factors impacted the observed link between hypertension and gait speed decline.

"The findings of the current study underscore the importance of including gait speed measures as outcomes for clinical trials of hypertension prevention and treatments," the authors write.

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