heartCardiovascular health impacts how well people function in the years to come, even if they’ve not had a stroke or heart attack, according to research at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2015.

Researchers studied more than 3,200 adults in Northern Manhattan, looking for indicators of “ideal cardiovascular health status” and measured functional ability using an index from zero to 20. Functional ability included activities of daily living such as feeding, bathing, grooming, dressing, bowel and bladder function, toilet use and mobility. Cardiovascular health includes seven risk factor metrics: smoking, blood pressure, blood glucose, body mass index, physical activity, diet and total cholesterol.

They found:

  • Twenty percent had zero or one ideal metric; 32 percent had two; 30 percent had three; 14 percent had four; and 4 percent had five to seven ideal metrics.
  • The higher the number of ideal metrics, the better the functional scores at five and ten years (even when the effect of strokes and heart attacks was removed).
  • At 10 years, poor physical activity predicted a lower functional score by 3.48 points, and non-ideal fasting glucose level predicted a lower functional score by 4.58 points.

The ideal cardiovascular health metric is an excellent predictor of functional status. Achieving the American Heart Association’s 2020 goal to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent, might not only have favorable effects on stroke and heart attack, but also may reduce functional impairment, researchers said.