How Fit Are You?

If you want to measure your fitness level, then your aerobic capacity is a good place to start.

How fit are you?If you get winded climbing stairs or chasing after your kids, then chances are you need to train your heart and lungs and engage in more cardiovascular fitness.

A recent paper in Circulation Research shows the better your aerobic capacity, the better your chances of living a long and healthy life.

Basing their research on studies performed on rats, researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s KG Jebsen Center of Exercise in Medicine examined the relationship between aerobic exercise capacity and survivability.

Low aerobic exercise capacity is a strong predictor of premature morbidity and mortality in both healthy adults and people with cardiovascular disease. In the elderly, poor performance on treadmill or extended walking tests indicates proximity to future health decline.

Laboratory rats of widely varying genetic backgrounds were bred for low or high intrinsic treadmill running capacity. Rats from multiple generations were followed for survivability and assessed for age-related declines in cardiovascular fitness, such as peak oxygen uptake, myocardial function, endurance performance and change in body mass.

The study found that the average lifespan of rats with innate low exercise capacity was 28-45% shorter than for rats with an inborn high exercise capacity. Likewise, the peak oxygen uptake measured across adulthood was a reliable predictor of lifespan.

As they transitioned to old age, rats with an inborn low capacity for exercise had worse cardiac health by multiple measures (left ventricular myocardial and cardiomyocyte morphology, mean blood pressure, and intracellular calcium handling in both systole and diastole). Moreover, rats with high innate exercise capacities had better sustained physical activity levels, energy expenditures, and lean body mass with age than their low-capacity cohorts.

Since the rats came from a wide variety of backgrounds, the results provide strong evidence that innate capacity for exercise can be linked to longevity, thus aerobic exercise capacity can prove useful in future exploration of the mechanisms behind cardiovascular disease.

It is recommended that as adults you get 30 to 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise four to five times a week. This could be any aerobic activity that involves the large muscles of the legs known for driving up your heart rate. From walking to martial arts, choose an activity that you know you can commit to and one that you enjoy.


The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). “Intrinsic aerobic exercise capacity linked to longevity.” ScienceDaily, 30 Sep. 2011. Web. 16 Oct. 2011.

Lifestyle Choices Made in Your 20s Can Impact Your Heart Health in Your 40s

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle from young adulthood into your 40s is strongly associated with low cardiovascular disease risk in middle age, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study.

Lifestyle Choices in your 20s impact your 40s“The problem is few adults can maintain ideal cardiovascular health factors as they age,” said Kiang Liu, first author of the study. “Many middle-aged adults develop unhealthy diets, gain weight and aren’t as physically active. Such lifestyles, of course, lead to high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes and elevated cardiovascular risk.”

Liu is a professor and the associate chair for research in the department of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

“In this study, even people with a family history of heart problems were able to have a low cardiovascular disease risk profile if they started living a healthy lifestyle when they were young,” Liu said. “This supports the notion that lifestyle may play a more prominent role than genetics.”

Published Feb. 28 in the journal Circulation, this is the first study to show the association of a healthy lifestyle maintained throughout young adulthood and middle age with low cardiovascular disease risk in middle age.

The majority of people who maintained five healthy lifestyle factors from young adulthood (including a lean body mass index (BMI), no excess alcohol intake, no smoking, a healthy diet and regular physical activity) were able to remain in this low-risk category in their middle-aged years.

In the first year of the study, when the participants’ average age was 24 years old, nearly 44 percent had a low cardiovascular disease risk profile. Twenty years later, overall, only 24.5 percent fell into the category of a low cardiovascular disease risk profile.

Sixty percent of those who maintained all five healthy lifestyles reached middle age with the low cardiovascular risk profile, compared with fewer than 5 percent who followed none of the healthy lifestyles.

Researchers used data collected over 20 years from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in (Young) Adults (CARDIA) study. It began in 1985 and 1986 with several thousand 18 to 30 year-olds and has since followed the same group of participants.

For this study, the researchers analyzed data such as blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, BMI, alcohol intake, tobacco use, diet and exercise from more than 3,000 of the CARDIA participants to define a low cardiovascular disease risk profile and healthy lifestyle factors.

If the next generation of young people adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles, they will gain more than heart health, Liu stressed.

“Many studies suggest that people who have low cardiovascular risk in middle age will have a better quality of life, will live longer and will have lower Medicare costs in their older age,” he said. “There are a lot of benefits to maintaining a low-risk profile.”


K. Liu, M. L. Daviglus, C. M. Loria, L. A. Colangelo, B. Spring, A. C. Moller, D. M. Lloyd-Jones. Healthy Lifestyle Through Young Adulthood and the Presence of Low Cardiovascular Disease Risk Profile in Middle Age: The Coronary Artery Risk Development in (Young) Adults (CARDIA) Study. Circulation, 2012; 125 (8): 996 DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.111.060681

Northwestern University (2012, March 2). Lifestyle choices made in your 20s can impact your heart health in your 40s. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 20, 2012, from­/releases/2012/03/120302132426.htm

Lack of Sleep Could Mean Lights out for your Heart

What do you plan to do with that extra hour of sleep this weekend?

sleep deprivation and heart attackThis time of year affects everybody differently, but studies show that gaining an extra hour of sleep can be good for the heart.

In a Swedish study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, scientists found a decline in the reported number of heart attacks on the Monday after daylight savings than at any other time of year. In fact, when the clocks go forward in the spring and we lose an hour of sleep, there is a marked spike in the number of heart attacks that following week.

Why is sleep so important to heart health?

It has been found that the premium number of hours of sleep a person needs per night is 7 to 8 hours, yet most Americans are lucky if they get six hours of sleep a night. During sleep, many metabolic functions take place that can only take place during these darkened hours. The body’s circadian rhythms are hard-wired to respond to the earth’s light cycle. We respond to sunrise and sundown by releasing different hormones at different times of the day. For example, melatonin, which induces sleep and relaxation, cannot be produced in the body during daylight hours.

When we deprive ourselves of sleep, our body senses danger and it produces more stress hormones like cortisol. Our body is always on edge, always in alert mode and this places an enormous amount of stress on the body, including elevated levels of inflammation. Diseases such as heart attacks are a direct result of elevated levels of inflammation.

So it’s no exaggeration then, when we say that lack of sleep can shorten your life.

“Modern society has seen a gradual reduction in the average amount of sleep people take and this pattern is more common amongst full-time workers, suggesting that it may be due to societal pressures for longer working hours and more shift-work” – Professor Francesco Cappucio, Leader of the University of Warwick’s Sleep, Health and Society Program

Based on the findings of 1.5 million people in 16 studies, if the link between lack of sleep and death is truly causal, it would equate to over 6.3 million sleep-attributable deaths in the UK in people over 16 years of age.

The results showed that participants who cut their sleeping time from 7 hours (the optimum amount recommended for an adult) to 5 hours or less had a 1.7 times greater mortality risk from all causes, and double the risk of death from cardiovascular causes.

Use this time of year to assess your sleeping patterns and change bad habits like mindlessly watching late-night TV instead of going to bed early. Promise yourself you’ll get more sleep every night and your heart will thank you.

Triglycerides are Bad for the Heart

You hear a lot of talk about cholesterol and how bad it is for your heart, but not much is heard about triglycerides – another blood fat that can have harmful effects when levels are too high.

Triglycerides are Bad for the HeartHigh triglyceride levels in the blood can lead to weight gain and obesity and other diet-related diseases. So, diet and exercise are both vital components in controlling triglyceride levels and maintaining good health.

In a recent publication of the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers found that exercise and diet can reduce triglyceride levels by 20% to 50%.

“The good news is that high triglycerides can, in large part, be reduced through major lifestyle changes,” said Michael Miller, M.D., chair of the statement committee and professor of medicine in epidemiology and public health and director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

“In contrast to cholesterol, where lifestyle measures are important but may not be the solution, high triglycerides are often quite responsive to lifestyle measures that include weight loss if overweight, changes in diet and regular physical activity.”

These findings are based on an analysis of 500 studies across the globe that were conducted over the past 30 years. The researchers found that to reduce the amount of triglycerides in your blood, you need to make some real life changes to your diet and lifestyle. This means reducing:

  • Added sugar to less than 5 percent to 10 percent of calories consumed – about 100 calories per day for women and 150 calories per day for men.
  • Fructose from both processed foods and naturally occurring foods – less than 50 to 100 grams per day
  • Saturated fat to less than 7 percent of total calories
  • Trans fat to less than 1 percent of total calories; and
  • Alcohol, especially if triglyceride levels are higher greater than 500 mg/dL

The researchers conclude that most sugars are consumed through sugary drinks and that cutting down on these will greatly affect your waistline and your health. Other dietary changes include eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, high fiber whole grains and unsaturated fats like Omega-3 that offer countless health benefits.

Exercise will also help in reducing the amount of triglycerides in the bloodstream. As little as 30 minutes a day of some form of exercise that will elevate your heart rate is enough to get your health back on track.

“Triglycerides are an important barometer of metabolic health,” said Neil J. Stone, M.D., co-chair of the statement and professor of medicine in the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago. “When the clinician sees an elevated triglyceride level, there needs to be an important conversation about risk factors and the need to eat less, eat smarter, and to move more on a daily basis to improve triglycerides and the metabolic profile.”

The statistics show that 31% of American adults have unhealthy levels of triglycerides and these numbers are increasing among young adults.

Supplementing your diet with a high quality protein powder can help control cravings and provide the body with a clean energy source. Eating a protein with every meal helps keep you feeling fuller for longer and so the temptation to overeat is reduced.

Originally published @ FITLODE.COM

Omega-3 Helps with Muscular Recovery

With winter coming, everyone is reaching for their Omega-3 and vitamin D supplements. We know how important these supplements are and what benefits they bring to our daily health, especially at this time of year.

Omega-3 Helps with Muscular RecoveryRecent research, however, has uncovered another little gem that Omega-3 possesses and that is its ability to improve skeletal muscle function and recovery. A new study out of the University of Wollongong, Australia, published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that Omega-3 helped to improve muscle twitch tension and recovery, resulting in higher oxygen efficiency and reduced muscle fatigue.

While we know that Omega-3 is good for heart health, this research study showed that fish oil can alter the fatty acid composition of muscle membranes, including the membrane of the heart, which can lead to improvements in mechanical performance and oxygen consumption. This eight-week clinical animal trial set out to determine whether this effect carries over to skeletal muscle membranes as well.

For this trial, rats were divided into three different groups depending on diet:

  • Rich in saturated fats
  • Rich in Omega-6 (linoleic acid)
  • Rich in Omega-3 (fish oil)

The rats were put through a series of tests consisting of 10-minute sessions of muscular contractions of the hind leg via the sciatic nerve. The Omega-3 group fared better than the other two groups, showing consistently better twitch tension throughout the contraction sessions and used less oxygen during recovery. The saturated fats group continued to show poor oxygen efficiency even at rest, while the Omega-3 group’s resting oxygen consumption didn’t change.

The results of this test is that “membrane incorporation of n-3 PUFA DHA following fish oil feeding was associated with increased efficiency of muscle O2 consumption and promoted resistance to muscle fatigue.”

Originally published @ FITLODE.COM