July 23, 2008
Old Hearts Helped By Exercise

Your heart's ability to burn more glucose can be built up by exercise even in your 60s and early 70s.

Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but endurance exercise seems to make it younger. According to a study conducted at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, older people who did endurance exercise training for about a year ended up with metabolically much younger hearts. The researchers also showed that by one metabolic measure, women benefited more than men from the training.

"We know that the heart deteriorates as people get older, and that's largely because they don't stay as active as they used to," says first author Pablo F. Soto, M.D., instructor in medicine in the Cardiovascular Division. "Past research has suggested that exercise can reverse some effects of aging, and we wanted to see what effect it would have specifically on the heart."

The researchers measured heart metabolism in sedentary older people both at rest and during administration of dobutamine, a drug that makes the heart race as if a person were exercising vigorously. At the start of the study, they found that in response to the increased energy demands produced by dobutamine, the hearts of the study subjects didn't increase their uptake of energy in the form of glucose (blood sugar).

But after endurance exercise training which involved walking, running or cycling exercises three to five days a week for about an hour per session the participants' hearts doubled their glucose uptake during high-energy demand, just as younger hearts do.

You might find exercise annoying. But it is good for your heart.

The participants were six men and six women, ages 60 to 75, who were not obese but who had been living an inactive lifestyle. They were put on an eleven-month program of endurance exercise under the careful guidance of a trainer.

For the first three months, they were required to exercise to about 65 percent of their maximum capacity. After that, the program was stepped up so participants reached about 75 percent of maximum. Soto says the volunteers enjoyed the experience and told him they felt in the best shape they had been in years.

I'm still hoping for exercise in a pill. The pill should make your body change in all the beneficial ways that exercise causes physical changes.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 July 23 10:40 PM  Aging Cardiovascular Studies


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