Objective: To determine whether fitness could improve mortality risk stratification among older adults compared with cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors. Methods: We examined 6509 patients 70 years of age and older without CVD from the Henry Ford ExercIse Testing Project (FIT Project) cohort. Patients performed a physician-referred treadmill stress test between 1991 and 2009. Traditional categorical CVD risk factors (hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, and smoking) were summed from 0 to 3 or more. Fitness was grouped as low, moderate, and high (<6, 6 to 9.9, and ≥10 metabolic equivalents of task). All-cause mortality was ascertained through US Social Security Death Master files. We calculated age-adjusted mortality rates, multivariable adjusted Cox proportional hazards, and Kaplan-Meier survival models. Results: Patients had a mean age of 75±4 years, and 3385 (52%) were women; during a mean follow-up of 9.4 years, there were 2526 deaths. A higher fitness level (P<.001), not lower CVD risk factor burden (P=.31), was associated with longer survival. The age-adjusted mortality rate per 1000 person-years was 56.7 for patients with low fitness and 0 risk factors compared with 24.9 for high fitness and 3 or more risk factors. Among patients with 3 or more risk factors, the adjusted mortality hazard was 0.68 (95% CI, 0.61 to 0.76) for moderate and 0.51 (95% CI, 0.44 to 0.60) for high fitness compared with the least fit. Conclusion: Among persons aged 70 years and older, there was no significant difference in survival of patients with 0 vs 3 or more risk factors, but a higher fitness level identified older persons with good long-term survival regardless of CVD risk factor burden.
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