October 01, 2018

Fitness and weight control both matter for heart health

When it comes to heart health, is it better to be fit but overweight or to be of normal weight and sedentary? According to new research, compared with being fit and of healthy weight, both combinations increase your likelihood of having risk factors for heart disease.

The study, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, involved adults over age 70 who were part of a database in Norway. About 900 men and women were assessed for physical fitness — using a treadmill — and body composition, including body mass index (BMI).

The study also determined who had — or was being treated for — undesirable cholesterol levels, high blood pressure or elevated fasting blood glucose, a marker of diabetes. Anyone with or being treated for any two of these risk factors for cardiovascular disease was considered at high risk of developing a cardiovascular problem such as heart attack or stroke.

Not surprisingly, people who had a BMI of 25 or less and good fitness — such as at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise performed five days a week — were the least likely to be at high risk of cardiovascular disease. In the table below, you can see how risk climbs with lack of fitness, being overweight or both.