As we age, the aorta (the body’s main artery) gets stiffer. Arterial stiffness is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular events, dementia, and death. Excess body weight tends to accelerate the problem. Aerobic activity may help. A recent trial set out to see if aerobic exercise alone could improve aortic stiffness in older adults with obesity or if weight loss was necessary as well.
The study randomly assigned one third of 160 men and women ages 65 to 79 with BMIs in the obese range to eat as usual, one third to follow a diet with moderate calorie restriction, and one third to follow a more intensive calorie restricted diet. All participants walked on a treadmill four days a week for 30 minutes. After 20 weeks, weight loss was significantly greater in the calorie restricted groups compared the exercise-only group, but only the moderate calorie restriction group showed significant improvements in measures of aortic stiffness.
Radical diets and boot camp training regimens are not necessary to reap health benefits. Regular physical activity (like the brisk walking used in this study), combined with weight loss through a moderate decrease in caloric intake as part of a healthy dietary pattern is a great way to protect your cardiovascular health.
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