Faster walking patients with heart disease are hospitalised less, according to research presented today at EuroPrevent 2018, a European Society of Cardiology congress, and published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
The three-year study was conducted in 1,078 hypertensive patients, of whom 85% also had coronary heart disease and 15% also had valve disease.
Patients were then asked to walk 1 km on a treadmill at what they considered to be a moderate intensity. Patients were classified as slow (2.6 km/hour), intermediate (3.9 km/hour) and fast (average 5.1 km/hour). A total of 359 patients were slow walkers, 362 were intermediate and 357 were fast walkers.
The researchers recorded the number of all-cause hospitalisations and length of stay over the next three years. Participants were flagged by the regional Health Service Registry of the Emilia-Romagna Region, which collects data on all-cause hospitalisation.
Study author Dr Carlotta Merlo, a researcher at the University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy, said: “We did not exclude any causes of death because walking speed has significant consequences for public health. Reduced walking speed is a marker of limited mobility, which is a precursor of disability, disease, and loss of autonomy.”
During the three year period, 182 of the slow walkers (51%) had at least one hospitalisation, compared to 160 (44%) of the intermediate walkers, and 110 (31%) of the fast walkers.
The slow, intermediate and fast walking groups spent a total of 4,186, 2,240, and 990 days in hospital over the three years, respectively.
The average length of hospital stay for each patient was 23, 14, and 9 days for the slow, intermediate and fast walkers, respectively (see figure).
Each 1 km/hour increase in walking speed resulted in a 19% reduction in the likelihood of being hospitalised during the three-year period. Compared to the slow walkers, fast walkers had a 37% lower likelihood of hospitalisation in three years.
Dr Merlo said: “The faster the walking speed, the lower the risk of hospitalisation and the shorter the length of hospital stay. Since reduced walking speed is a marker of limited mobility, which has been linked to decreased physical activity,4 we assume that fast walkers in the study are also fast walkers in real life.”
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