For older adults who are obese, it may seem overwhelming to think about calorie control to lose weight and improve health markers, but a new study in the journal Circulation offers good news: It doesn’t take much to make a difference.
A group of researchers looked at 160 sedentary adults aged 65 to 79 and assigned the participants to one of three groups: exercise only with a regular diet; exercise plus moderate caloric restriction of approximately 200 calories a day; and exercise plus a more intensive caloric restriction of about 600 calories a day. Heart health was assessed before, during, and after the 20-week long study.
While participants in both calorie restriction groups lost weight, only the moderate calorie group saw a significant change in measures of aortic stiffness. That came as a surprise to the researchers, according to Tina Brinkley, Ph.D., lead author of the study and associate professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine. “It’s remarkable that the group with the highest calorie reduction did not have any improvement in aortic stiffness,” she said. She added that they did see benefits in terms of decreased body weight and blood pressure. Those results indicate that even a slight reduction in calories may be more beneficial than people might think, she added.
Aortic stiffness is a key measure of how well your cardiovascular system is working as you age. Although there is a certain level of stiffness that occurs as you age, risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity can accelerate the process. Brinkley says that previous studies have shown that lifestyle behaviors like physical activity and a healthy diet may be able to hinder this, even in people with chronic conditions.
In terms of the recent study, more research will be needed to determine why the moderate group had the most benefits, Brinkley added, but the bottom line here is that a small reduction also appears to go a long way toward improving heart health, such as body fat distribution. Adding exercise to the mix can make those effects even more powerful and confer older adults not only improvements in body composition, but also brain health along the way, Brinkley said. “When you strengthen your heart with exercise and a healthy diet, you are also strengthening the connection between your brain and your body,” Brinkley concluded.
Date: August 8th, 2021
Reference: Brinkley TE, Leng I, Bailey MJ, et al. Effects of exercise and weight loss on proximal aortic stiffness in older adults with obesity. Circulation. 2021 Aug 2.
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