The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), based in Trinity, has found a new predictor of mortality in older people. The study discovered that the speed of heart rate change after standing up predicts the likelihood of an older person dying within the following four years.
This new information comes after a detailed cardiovascular health assessment completed by 4,475 TILDA participants in 2011 was followed up on this year. The study found that those whose heart took the longest to return to its normal rate while at rest within the initial 20 seconds after standing up were 7 times more likely to die within the following four years than those whose heart rate recovered fastest.
TILDA is a large-scale, nationally representative study of ageing in Ireland, and collects information on the economic and social circumstances, as well as the health, of people aged 50 and over. Its aim is to determine the needs of older people and those of their carers and family, as well as the biological and environmental factors that contribute to people ageing “successfully.” It also explores the contributions older people make to our society.
Researchers hope that is this new information will allow doctors to more accurately assess the health of their patients. Commenting of the findings, author of the report and Senior Research Fellow with TILDA, Dr Cathal McCrory, remarked that “the speed of heart rate recovery in response to standing is an important marker of health and vitality that could be assessed quite readily in a clinical setting such as a hospital.”
Principal Investigator of TILDA, Professor Rose Anne Kenny, expressed hope that this new information will be used to improve the health of older people: “we are excited by the potential to help people improve their heart rate recovery, possibly by simple strategies such as individualised exercise.”
Improving the health of older people is a significant concern among doctors and researchers in Ireland. By 2030, one in five people in Ireland will be over the age of 65, while the number of people aged 80 and over is projected to rise from 130,598 to 457,962 in that time. TILDA aims to assist in enabling effective forward planning to accommodate an older population.
TILDA’s research is carried out in Trinity in collaboration with an interdisciplinary panel of scientific researchers from various other colleges across Ireland, including University College Dublin (UCD), Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG). It is funded by the Department of Health, the Atlantic Philanthropies and Irish Life.