Muscles & Your Heart
New research from Greece indicates that maintaining higher muscle mass can help prevent heart disease and stroke later in life, particularly in men. The researchers noted that muscle tissue volume begins dropping in our mid-thirties and then declines by three percent per decade. To investigate the link between muscle mass and heart disease the researchers monitored 2,020 men and women for 10 years, about half of whom were 45 years old or older. None of these older subjects had heart disease at the study’s start, but during the following 10 years, 272 of them suffered fatal or nonfatal cardiovascular disease such as stroke. Study results showed that men were about four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease as women and that the fewest cases occurred among those with the highest muscle volume. In fact, men with the highest muscle tissue volume were 81 percent less likely to have a heart attack or stroke than other study participants. They tended to be younger, smokers more physically active, with higher levels of education and income and following the Mediterranean diet. After more detailed analysis, the researchers concluded that greater muscle volume remained significantly associated with lower cardiovascular disease risk, regardless of diet, diabetes and other risk factors among those aged 45 and older, but only among men.
My take? This is welcome news for men. It provides another compelling reason to include strength training in your overall fitness program, regardless of age. Beyond preserving your muscle mass, research shows that even people in their 90s can improve their strength and walking speed through weight training. If you don’t have any experience with resistance training, you’ll likely need instructions from trainers at a gym or a few sessions with a personal trainer to develop the best routine, and to learn how to perform the exercises safely.
Demosthenes Panagiotakos et al “Skeletal muscle mass in relation to 10-year cardiovascular disease incidence among middle aged and older adults: the ATTICA study, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, November 11, 2019, doi: 10.1136/jech-2019-212268.
More from this week’s bulletin:
- More Beans = Less Heart Disease
- Diet To Lower Lung Cancer Risk
- Happy Thanksgiving! Mashed Potatoes & Parsnips
Sign up for Dr. Weil’s Newsletters