Consuming fewer calories and being physically active is the best way for elderly overweight adults to improve their heart health, a new study has found.

Researchers from the American Heart Association have found that older obese people can prevent cardiovascular disease if they reduce their daily calorie allowance by 250 and partake in more aerobic based activities.

Cutting calories and exercising can enhance aortic stiffness, which ultimately improves the condition of an aging heart.

However, exercise alone or being active alongside a more controlled meal plan is not adequate enough to enhance aortic stiffness in mature overweight adults.

Senior researcher, Dr Tina E. Brinkley said: “This is the first study to assess the effects of aerobic exercise training with and without reducing calories on aortic stiffness, which was measured via cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging (CMR) to obtain detailed images of the aorta.

“We sought to determine whether adding calorie restriction for weight loss would lead to greater improvements in vascular health compared to aerobic exercise alone in older adults with obesity.”

The scientists split 160 inactive participants between the ages 65 and 79 into three groups, with each group following different diet plans.

Individuals in the first group followed their normal diet and exercised.

Participants in group B limited their calorie intake by 250 per day alongside being active, whereas those in the last group exercised and cut their calories by 600 per day.

During the 20-week-long trial, every participant took part in aerobic exercises four times a week and the condition of their hearts were regularly monitored throughout.

According to the findings, individuals who lost 20 pounds in group B enhanced their aortic stiffness, whereas no significant improvements were measured in the other two groups.

Additionally, BMI improvements were present in those who restricted their calorie intake.

“Our findings indicate that lifestyle changes designed to increase aerobic activity and moderately decrease daily calorie intake may help to reduce aortic stiffness and improve overall vascular health,” said Dr Brinkley.

She added: “However, we were surprised to find that the group that reduced their calorie intake the most did not have any improvements in aortic stiffness, even though they had similar decreases in body weight and blood pressure as the participants with moderate calorie restriction.”

“These results suggest that combining exercise with modest calorie restriction, as opposed to more intensive calorie restriction or no calorie restriction, likely maximizes the benefits on vascular health, while also optimizing weight loss and improvements in body composition and body fat distribution.”

She concluded: “The finding that higher-intensity calorie restriction may not be necessary or advised has important implications for weight loss recommendations to improve cardiovascular disease risk in older adults with obesity.”

The entire research study can now be accessed in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation.

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