Better Diet and Regular Exercise Improve Cardiometabolic Health in Later Life

A sensible diet and adherence to a program of regular exercise have a meaningful effect on late life health, as illustrated by this epidemiological study. Therapies that target the mechanisms of aging are still in the early stages of development, and few have shown impressive results in mice, let alone humans. Exercise and the practice of calorie restriction outperform near all such treatment for which robust animal or human data has been established. This will change in years ahead, but it will never be a good idea to neglect the basics of good health.

Following a routine of regular physical activity combined with a diet including fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods may be key to middle-aged adults achieving optimal cardiometabolic health later in life, according to new research using data from the Framingham Heart Study. Cardiometabolic health risk factors include the metabolic syndrome, a cluster of disorders such as excess fat around the waist, insulin resistance, and high blood pressure. Presence of the metabolic syndrome may increase the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes.

Researchers noted it has been unclear whether adherence to both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and their 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans - as opposed to only one of the two - in midlife confers the most favorable cardiometabolic health outcomes later in life. The physical activity guidelines recommend that adults achieve at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week, such as walking or swimming. The dietary guidelines, which were updated in January 2021, offer suggestions for healthy eating patterns, nutritional targets, and dietary limits.

In an analysis of data from participants of the Framingham Heart Study, which began more than 70 years ago in Framingham, Massachusetts, investigators examined data from 2,379 adults ages 18 and older and their adherence to the two guidelines. They observed that meeting a combination of the two recommendations during midlife was associated with lower odds of metabolic syndrome and developing serious health conditions as participants aged in their senior years in 2016-2019 examinations. Participants who followed the physical activity recommendations alone had 51% lower odds of metabolic syndrome. Participants who adhered to the dietary guidelines alone had 33% lower odds. Participants who followed both guidelines had 65% lower odds of developing metabolic syndrome.


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