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Activity critical to elderly health - study

Thursday March 2nd, 2017

Keeping physically active, rather than weight management, is the key to preventing cardiovascular disease in older people, according to a new European study.

The findings apply to middle-aged and elderly people, according to Dutch researchers in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

Their research, involving people over the age of 55, found that physical activity had a significant effect in protecting the heart and circulation.

But there was no link between obesity and cardiovascular disease risk.

The researchers say this may be partly because among the older generation weight loss may reflect loss of muscle strength.

The study involved more than 5,000 people from Rotterdam, followed over a 15-year period. Some 16% suffered a cardiovascular event.

The researchers stress that the people in the study were unusually active. Even the least active people, on average had two hours a day of daily activity.

Researcher Dr Klodian Dhana, from Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, said the findings raised questions about whether body mass index was the best way to measure obesity in the elderly.

He said: "Overweight and obesity exert harmful effects through adipose tissue which accelerates the atherosclerotic process and increases cardiovascular risk. Physical activity lowers the harmful effects of atherosclerosis by reducing the stabilisation of plaques on blood vessels and reducing the heart’s oxygen demand.

“People who engage in high levels of physical activity are protected from the harmful effects of adipose tissue on cardiovascular disease.

“This may be why we found that the beneficial impact of physical activity on cardiovascular disease outweighs the negative impact of BMI.”

Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation, said the findings were "no excuse" for ignoring the waist-line.

He said: “Research has shown that being active reduces your risk of developing heart disease, no matter how old you are.

"This study reinforces this message, although suggests in elderly people keeping fit may be even more beneficial than not gaining weight."

Koolhaas CM, Dhana K, Schoufour JD, et al. Impact of physical activity on the association of overweight and obesity with cardiovascular disease: The Rotterdam Study. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology 1 March 2017; doi: 10.1177/2047487317693952

Tags: Diet & Food | Elderly Health | Europe | Fitness | Heart Health

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