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Research Department of Primary Care and Population Health Blog



Catching up with the British Regional Heart Study

By Nathan Davies, on 12 October 2015

The British Regional BHRS oct 2015Heart Study (BRHS) group have been busy over the summer presenting their work at national and international conferences, which were well received by their audiences, generating lots of discussion. The BRHS is a longitudinal study with over 35 years of follow-up of men from across Britain now in their 70s through to 90s.  At recent conferences, the BRHS team members presented a variety of exciting research ranging from physical activity, sensory impairments, cognition, to oral health of older people.

Dr Barbara Jefferis attended the ISBNPA, a physical activity conference, in Edinburgh. She presented new findings using the activity monitor data looking at the importance of accumulating physical activity in bouts in relation to measures of adiposity (obesity) and metabolic syndrome- challenging the government guidelines requiring that physical activity be accumulated in bouts of 10 minutes or more.


Dr Jefferis and Claudio Sartini gave presentations at ICAMPAM in Limerick, highlighting their work using the activity monitor data to investigate how patterns of activity are affected by diurnal and seasonal variations. This work showed that people in poorer health states or older age groups lose out on the peak of activity in the morning.

In early September the Society for Social Medicine held its 59th annual scientific meeting at University College Dublin. Eight members of staff and PhD students from the BRHS attended the conference and by the end of the conference most attendees had probably heard about our work!  Three of the team arrived a day before the conference to attend the pre-conference event for early career researchers which covered everything from job applications and fellowships to how to deal with difficult people and thinking strategically about your career.

Dr Tessa Parsons presented her work on physical activity and carotid intima-media thickness, a vascular marker for cardiovascular disease. It looks as though all activity is important, even if it is accumulated in bouts of less than 10 minutes. Light activity was found to have a potentially protective effect, and this might inform updates of the physical activity guidelines which at the moment make no mention of light activity.

Ann Liljas presented work from her PhD on hearing and vision impairments in older men and subsequent risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) including heart attack and stroke, and CVD mortality. Ann’s work showed that men with a self-reported hearing problem had an increased risk of stroke compared to those with no hearing problem, even after taking factors such as age, social class, smoking and obesity into consideration. Early identification of hearing impairment in older adults could be important in preventing stroke.

Dr Steven Papachristou presented his work on the relationships between obesity and sarcopenia (loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength as a result of ageing) with cognitive function in older age. The adiposity measures considered were not restricted to anthropometric characteristics but also included detailed measurements obtained from bio-impedance analysis. Interestingly, his findings show that BMI, peripheral fat mass (fat that accumulates under the skin and is evenly distributed over the body’s surface area) and visceral fat mass (excessive abdominal fat around the stomach, but not waist circumference or central adiposity, are associated with severe cognitive impairments in later life after adjustments for metabolic and inflammatory markers.

Dr Sheena Ramsay presented new findings on oral health in older people. Her work on socioeconomic inequalities showed that neighbourhood deprivation was strongly associated with tooth loss, and to some extent with acute periodontal (gum) disease. This adds to the evidence on the importance of neighbourhood deprivation on various aspects of the health of older people including oral health.

Finally, we said farewell to Janice Atkins, who submitted her PhD in September entitled Body composition, dietary patterns, cardiovascular disease and mortality in older age. We wish Janice every success in her new job as a Research Fellow at the University of Exeter.

This study is funded by the BHF and receives further support from the MRC, NIHR and NSPCR.  The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the funding bodies.

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