Among elderly adults, the correlation between blood pressure (BP) and mortality varies with walking speed, according to research published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

To investigate the correlation between elevated BP and walking speed with the risk of mortality, Michelle C. Odden, PhD, of Oregon State University in Corvallis, and colleagues used data from 2,340 adults, aged 65 years and older, who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 1999 to 2000 and 2001 to 2002. Walking speed was measured over a 6-m distance and classified as fast (0.8 m/s or greater; 1,307 participants), slow (less than 0.8 m/s; 790 participants), and incomplete (243 participants).

By the end of 2006, 589 participants had died. The researchers observed a correlation between BP and mortality, which varied with walking speed. In the faster walking group, those with an elevated systolic BP (140 mm Hg or higher) had a 35% increased adjusted mortality risk. BP was not associated with mortality among the slower walkers. In participants who did not complete the walk test, elevated systolic and diastolic BP were independently associated with a significant 62% and 90% lower mortality risk, respectively.

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“We found that systolic BP is associated with an increased risk of mortality in adults with medium to fast walking speed,” the authors wrote. “The association of BP and mortality is less clear in slower-walking adults, and future research should aim to characterize this relationship better in frail older adults and the institutionalized population.”