January 20, 2008
Exercise Or Calorie Restriction Improves Heart Health

If you are overweight then regardless of whether you exercise or cut calories to lose weight you will gain the benefit of a more flexible and functional heart.

Jan. 10, 2008 -- Overweight people who lose a moderate amount of weight get an immediate benefit in the form of better heart health, according to a study conducted at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. And the heart improvements happen whether that weight is shed by eating less or exercising more.

"If individuals want to do something that's good for their heart, then my message to them is lose weight by the method they find most tolerable," says the study's senior author Sándor J. Kovács, Ph.D, M.D., director of the Cardiovascular Biophysics Laboratory and professor of medicine. "They're virtually guaranteed that it will have a salutary effect on their cardiovascular system."

Studying a group of healthy, overweight but not obese, middle-aged men and women, the researchers found that a yearlong regimen of either calorie restriction or exercise increase had positive effects on heart function. Their analysis revealed that heart function was restored to a more youthful state so that during the heart's filling phase (called diastole) it took less time for participants' hearts to relax and fill with blood. The findings will appear in an upcoming issue of the American Journal of Physiology and are now available online.

Your tissues are accumulating collagen fibers that are making your tissues more fibrotic and stiff. Do you react like I do when reading descriptions of aging and think "what a waste" and "how disgusting" and "we need to find out how to fix that" and the like?

"As we get older, our tissues become more fibrotic as collagen fibers accumulate," says study co-author John O. Holloszy, M.D., professor of medicine in the Division of Geriatrics and Nutritional Science. "So the arteries and heart muscle stiffen, and the heart doesn't relax as well after contracting. Similar studies that we've conducted with members of the Caloric Restriction with Optimal Nutrition Society (CRONies) show they have heart function resembling much younger people." CRONies voluntarily consume about 25 percent fewer calories than the average American while still maintaining good nutrition.

We shouldn't have stiff heart muscles. I realize that there is an election campaign going on in America about all sorts of issues. But isn't the fact that our heart muscles are getting stiffer more important than all those issues? You are falling apart. We don't have the technology to reverse it. Development of such technology is possible. Shouldn't we think that is more important than personality politics?

Gaining the ability to relax a heart more quickly is a good thing.

By the end of the yearlong study, both the calorie restriction and exercise groups of volunteers lost 12 percent of their weight and 12 percent of their body mass index (BMI), a measurement considered to be a fairly reliable indicator of the amount of body fat. In both groups, participants' hearts responded to this weight loss by gaining the ability to relax more quickly, recovering some of the elasticity characteristic of younger heart tissue. Those in the calorie restriction group achieved slightly more reduction of heart stiffness.

Sounds like the calorie restriction group got the bigger benefit.

The detailed analysis showed that in both groups, the left ventricle gained an increased capacity to expand to accommodate blood entering during diastole. In the calorie restriction group, the global stiffness of the left ventricle decreased, suggesting that the muscle and connective tissue of the heart more readily sprang back after the contraction phase. This group also experienced a decrease in the internal pressure gradient, indicating that their left ventricles had better suction ability.

So eat less. Eat better too.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 January 20 10:19 PM  Aging Cardiovascular Studies

rsilvetz said at January 21, 2008 9:39 AM:

Makes one wonder if the drop in TGF-beta from hypertension drugs is what is really conferring the improved cardiovascular outcomes. Dropping the TGF-beta axis will definitely slow fibrotic processes....

David F. said at January 23, 2008 1:26 PM:

I have personally lost between 45-50 pounds over the past year and a half and I would have to attest to the calorie based system. I have eaten a healthy and yet filling diet and do not feel the urge to break from it in this long. I have found also that by maintaining my cravings by spacing out my meals to include at least 4-6 meals a day, while never becoming "full" has made me a much more active and energetic person while keeping my metabolism going throughout the day.

If you are overweight and struggling, this may be your only way out. In fact, I suggest you do not try excessive exercise while significantly overweight as the extra stress on your already taxed system may outweigh the benefits of exercise itself. Try to keep the thought of what you are trying to accomplish in your mind at all times, don't give into cravings, and about every two weeks cheat a little. Cheating, meaning ONE meal that you have been absolutely craving for over the last two weeks or so and can't stop thinking about. Anything more than this two weeks schedule and you are defeating the purpose and will revert to your old ways.

After you have lost significant amounts of weight and feel you are ready to start exercise, DO NOT start out with a rigorous workout which puts you out of commission for days on end. Start working out doing light exercise such as walking, pushups, situps, working around the house (which you have been meaning to do anyway).

After you have been doing these activities on a semi-daily basis you may start to feel like doing more. Go hiking, rock climbing (indoor/outdoor), paintball, throw a ball around with a friend/kids, swim, ride a bike, play a sport. Always be careful to know your boundaries, odds are is you have not done many of these things for extended periods of time and you may feel a bit "rusty."

The best part of the exercise and diets is the way you feel when you know you have accomplished or are in the process of accomplishing your goal to become healther. The most important part is to do this slowly and at the pace which you are most happy with. Fast fixes to problems are said to be "Too good to be true" and many times they are. The best diet/exercise program is one which suits your needs. Do it for yourself, to it for your health. The healthier you is in there.

Good luck.

Note: I am not a doctor and do not claim to have any dietary or related degree. I have personally lost weight with a similar method and am once again enjoying life.

Check your Body Mass Index (BMI):





I hope this has all helped.

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