Doctors share physical signs that can indicate you're at risk of early death

A study published in the British Medical Journal has said an increase in the difficulty of daily tasks such as walking and cooking in people over the age of 65 can indicate an increased risk of death

A woman getting a check-up at the doctors
The study looked at changes in people’s physical ability in the years before death

Doctors have said that changes in some of the small things people do every day can indicate that they’re at a higher risk of an early death.

Researchers believe that warning signs can appear 10 years before death and that daily tasks such as walking, shopping and getting dressed could act red flags.

Sharing the findings in the British Medical Journal, the experts said that declining physical motor functions over the age of 65 are associated with an increased risk of death.

It states that having difficulties with movements such as getting up from a chair, walking speed, or decreased grip strength could assist in early detection, leading to “opportunities for prevention and targeted interventions”.

Every day tasks like shopping were found to become more difficult in the years before death


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The findings are based on a study of more than 6,000 participants aged between 33 and 55 years old, conducted between 1985 and 1988.

Between 2007 and 2016, the same participants underwent physical assessments on up to three occasions, including measurements of walking speed, the time it takes to get up from a chair, grip strength, and tasks such as dressing, using the toilet, cooking and grocery shopping. Deaths from any cause were recorded until October 2019.

It found that a decrease in the level of physical motor functions was linked with an increased risk of death.

The report says that participants in the study who had died recorded slower times getting out of a chair up to 10 years before death than those who had survived, and experienced more difficulties with daily living activities four years before death – with the difficulties increasing steeply in the period directly before death.

It states: “After taking account of other potentially influential factors, the researchers found that poorer motor function was associated with an increased mortality risk of 22% for walking speed, 15% for grip strength and 14% for timed chair rises, while difficulties with activities of daily living were associated with a 30% increased risk.

“These associations became progressively stronger with later life assessments.”


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