A Fit Heart Can Mean a Long Life

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As regular readers of this site know, I have sometimes have reservations about the latest statistic or study. I read about a study a while ago that is interesting in that it seems to support some of my admittedly unscientific ideas.

The study looked at people age 60 and older to see what effect a “fit heart” had on longevity. Now on the surface, this seems a no-brainer. Of course people with a fit heart would tend to live longer than those with an unhealthy heart. But the study did not look specifically at healthy vs. unhealthy hearts. It looked at heart fitness levels and tried to see if, as fitness increased, did people live longer?

This is of interest because all of us know at least a couple of very elderly, healthy, people, who have never formally exercised in their lives. We also know the occasional very elderly person who does not exercise, is overweight, and is still going strong. I have a belief, that some evidence supports, that genetics plays a big role in this. The intriguing question is would a seeming healthy out of shape person who lives until 85 because of good genetics, have lived a healthy life until 95 or 100 if they had been fit?

Over more that 10 years in the study it was found that fitness of the heart as measured by cardio stress tests, like a treadmill, directly indicated a longer life. In fact those judged to be most fit had death rates 1/2 of those judged least fit. This was true across the board, regardless of obesity level. In other words, fat people with a fit heart lived longer than thin or normal weight people with a less fit heart.

This may seem like good news for many that are overweight, but there are cautions to be applied. Information on diet and heredity was not considered in the study. The researchers simply looked at the fitness of the heart. To me this points to a disturbing reality. The part of our lifestyle that can be the hardest to influence may indeed be the most important when it comes to length of life. Although controlling diet and eating healthy food can be difficult, it is easier for many than finding time in our busy schedules for regular exercise.

The apparent indication, at least from this one study, is that exercise to maintain a healthy heart may be more important than diet. I don’t agree and in my next post, I will outline why I have reservations about the results.



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Will Sig
1 Bob

Interesting, I’ve found I feel the best when I eat properly and exercise, when I do one without the other, not so much, I’m saying this from experience, I lost 70 pounds quite a few years ago, and I had gone through various diets and exercise programs, and know at least for me I needed both.

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2 Will

Hi Bob – You are right that that doing both would make you feel better.

You state you lost 70 lbs. Congratulations! That is a great accomplishment in itself. But you say it like it has been several years and maybe you have kept it off? That is even more impressive!

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3 Abhinav Sood

I really feel that I should exercise regularly apart from my Sunday cricket matches.

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4 KimS

Hey Will, I just came across an old comment you left on my blog last year… about surrounding yourself with positive people… and came over to see what you’ve been up to.

Good read, this one!

Have you been reading about calorie restriction and longer life? I’ve been looking into info. about fasting because we get really positive results with it (we do consume clear soup broth and fruit/veggie juice through it though). There’s something to be said for giving the digestive system a break.

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5 Michelle

Hi Will,

I still believe that the whole person needs to be considered, not just one piece, be it heart, weight, etc. 🙂

However, I posted an article back in January that talks about why doctors say it is good to be a little overweight. (Click my name to read it.)

Personally, I think “ideal” is so individual that attempting to apply the same-size-fits-all charts they try to plug patients into is actually detrimental to health.

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6 Will

Cricket, eh? I don’t know much about the game, Abhinav, being from the U.S. Do you get a lot of exercise playing? It seems the most important thing is not how you exercise, but how often. Several times a week seems ideal. Unfortunately with busy lives, scheduling regular exercise is more easily done on paper than in real life.

It is also somewhat dependant on personality. Some people are fine with 30 or 60 minutes of solitary exercise everyday. Others, like me, seem to only be able to do it with other people in a more social manner. Like playing a sport, or hiking.

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7 Will

You know, Michele and Kim, that is exactly why I think genetics has a lot to do with good health. I mean following what the “experts” say can absolutely drive you crazy! Some claim being 30% underweight can extend lifespan by many years. Others say a little extra weight seems to protect. Sometimes you just want to knock your head on the table!

-Will

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8 Bob

Hey Will, still off.

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9 Better than Total Gym 3000

Great post! But not only the cardiovascular system, lungs, muscles work much better if we are in good physical shape, but our mental status is also improved with a great workout.

Also, an intriguing study on physical activity and anti-aging, conducted by the University of Nevada Las Vegas adult exercise program, found out that normal population that does not exercise are have weaker factors compared to that of seniors who engaged in physical activities. Reality is, it is easier to maintain your fitness even if you’re in your 60’s and 70’s, if you have been more fit in your early stage. Regular activities such as exercise will keep you fit, and look younger compare to sedentary ones. Anyone who exercise has a greater chance of preventing any heart diseases and are likely to live 5 years longer than inactive ones. It’s never too late to engage in any physical activity. Change the way you live. Lifestyle contributes a lot of risk factors to your health. Truly is that exercise is the fountain of youth.

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