Though elderly people with heart failure often enter the hospital over and over, it’s hard to estimate a specific individual’s risk of landing there. One low-tech way may be to check gait speed.
Sarwat Chaudhry, M.D., associate professor of medicine, isolated health factors in elderly heart failure patients that were likely to precede hospital admission. Weak grip strength and slow gait, she found, were comparable to chronic kidney disease and diabetes for predicting admission. The results appeared in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in January.
Her predictors make sense, says Chaudhry: Gait speed requires the smooth function of several organ systems, and is also the single best measure of frailty in the elderly. While it’s important to keep track of chronic diseases, she added that measuring an elderly person’s general functioning is also important: “Physical function turns out to be a simple and accessible marker of overall health.”