Functional impairment measures such as hearing and walking ability can help accurately predict six-month mortality for older heart attack patients, say Yale University researchers.

To test the new risk model, investigators collected data from more than 3,000 patients aged 75 and older who were hospitalized with heart attack. Beyond what is normally gathered, such as heart rate, blood pressure and hemoglobin readings, they also added measures of functional impairments and conditions of aging. These included walking speed, muscle strength, problems with hearing, vision and weight loss, and self-reported health status.

While the traditional mortality risk factors remained important, the functional impairment measures resulted in significant improved mortality risk prediction, said Sarwat Chaudhry, M.D.

When an adult is found to have a high mortality risk based on these measurements, a physician could potentially use the information to prescribe additional therapies or cardiac rehabilitation, Chaudhry theorized.

Assessments included in the study were selected based on feasibility in the hospital setting. The study was published Tuesday in Annals of Internal Medicine.