Background: Older adults report preservation of functional independence as one of the most important constructs of successful ageing. Vascular risk factors may increase the risk of functional impairment due to clinical and subclinical vascular disease. Objective: To describe the association between vascular risk factors and impaired ability to perform daily living activities, independent of established cardiovascular disease. Methods: We conducted an analysis of the Clarity Cohort, which is a cross-sectional study of 9,816 community-dwelling Irish adults. Of the total cohort, 3,499 completed standardized self-reported health questionnaires, which included questions on activities of daily living. Functional impairment was defined as self-reported impairment in self-care, mobility or household tasks. Using logistic regression analyses, we determined the association between vascular risk factors and functional impairment, independent of demographics, prior coronary artery disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, and peripheral vascular disease. Results: Functional impairment was reported in 40.4% (n = 1,413) of the cohort overall and in 23% of those with established cardiovascular disease. The mean age was 66.2 ± 10.3 years, 52% of the cohort were aged over 65 and 45.6% were male. Some difficulty with instrumental activities of daily living was reported by 35.4% (n = 1,240) while 29.4% (n = 1,029) reported some difficulty with basic activities of daily living. On multivariable analysis, older age [OR 1.03 (1.02, 1.04) per year], current smoking [OR 1.43 (1.08, 1.89)], atrial fibrillation [OR 1.68 (1.07, 2.65)], former alcohol use [OR 1.87 (1.36, 2.57)] and prior stroke [OR 1.91 (1.24, 2.93)] were associated with an increased risk of functional impairment. Older age leaving education [OR 0.96 (0.94, 0.99)], non-use of alcohol [OR 0.76 (0.61, 0.93)] and increased high-density lipoprotein levels [OR 0.70 (0.56, 0.88)] were associated with reduced risk of functional impairment. Conclusions: Independent of established cardiovascular disease, some vascular risk factors are associated with functional impairment. Modification of these risk factors is expected to have a large impact on preservation of functional independence through prevention of overt and covert vascular disease.

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