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Fitness key to heart health

Tuesday December 6th, 2011

Physical inactivity rather than excess weight may be the biggest threat to the heart, according to the findings of a major study reported last night.

Keeping and improving fitness is a better way to stave off disease than simply keeping slim, according to the study of more than 14,000 men, aged on average 44.

The study found that fitness was the key factor in risk of heart disease - rather than weight as measured by body mass index.

The findings may reflect concerns that BMI includes both fat and muscle weight equally.

But British experts said men should continue to keep their weight down - as this would almost certainly improve their health.

Researchers at the University of South Carolina, USA, used a measure of fitness known as metabolic equivalent of task.

This showed that every increase in MET over a six year period was linked to a 19 per cent reduced risk of heart disease - and 15 per cent reduced risk of dying.

Regular walking is worth more than two METs while cycling is worth four METs and jogging is worth seven METs.

The researchers found no impact of weight changes on risk of disease - but point out that only ten per cent of their participants were obese.

The findings were reported in the journal Circulation.

Researcher Dr Duck-chul Lee said he believed the findings would also apply to women.

He said: "This is good news for people who are physically active but can't seem to lose weight."

Doireann Maddock, of the British Heart Foundation, said: "This research certainly shouldn’t encourage anyone to ignore the importance of keeping to a healthy weight. If you’re overweight or obese you’ve a higher risk of developing heart disease, while excess weight around your waist has also been shown to be particularly bad for you."

* A second study last night, from Denmark, highlights the benefits to young women of eating oily fish, rich in omega-3.

Writing in the journal Hypertension, researchers report on a study of about 49,000 women under the age of 50. They say that to gain the maximum benefit from oily fish, women should eat it as a main meal at least twice a week.

They report that in an eight year period, women who ate fish enjoyed a one third reduction in heart problems.

Dr Marin Strøm, of the Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark, said: "The biggest challenge in getting health messages like this across to younger populations is that usually the benefits may not be evident for 30 or 40 years, but our study shows this is not the case."

Long-Term Effects of Changes in Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Body Mass Index on All-Cause and Cardiovascular Disease Mortality in Men. Duck-chul Lee et al, Circulation December 5 2011 DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.111.038422.

Hypertension December 5 2011

Tags: Diet & Food | Fitness | Heart Health | Menís Health | North America | UK News | Womenís Health & Gynaecology

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