High coronary artery calcium (CAC) together with slow walking speed multiplies the risk of mortality, reveals a new study published in the International Journal of Cardiology. Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death worldwide and also a common cause of sudden death - heart attack often being the first sign of the disease.
"In the study, high coronary artery calcium and slow walking speed were found to increase mortality as separate risk factors. Moreover, in the follow-up we found that together these factors multiplied the risk of mortality," says Dr. Mikaela von Bonsdorff from the University of Jyväskylä.
The participants in the study were on average 76 years old individuals who were free from coronary heart disease in the beginning of the study. They were followed up for 5.5 years. Coronary artery calcium was measured with a computed tomography. Habitual walking speed was measured at the research laboratory.
"Normal walking speed is a good indicator of physical capacity among older people. With a simple walking test, it is possible to identify individuals who are at an increased risk of health decline," says von Bonsdorff.
Subclinical coronary atherosclerosis, indicated by high CAC, might originate in as early as infancy. It is a slowly progressing disease in which cholesterol plaques form in the vessels that supply blood to the heart muscle causing decreased blood flow in the narrowing coronary arteries.
"The present findings show that improving physical functioning may lower the risk of health decline caused by subclinical coronary atherosclerosis," says von Bonsdorff who worked at the National Institute on Aging, NIH, US analysing an Icelandic dataset.
International Journal of Cardiology