The positive effects of exercise outweigh the impacts of obesity on heart disease among the elderly, a new study revealed.

Experts from the Netherlands discovered that physical activity may effectively reduce the risk of stroke or cardiovascular diseases regardless of the person's body mass index.

The findings emphasize that physical activity is crucial in the heart health of middle-aged adults and the elderly, researchers said.

Link Between Heart Disease And Weight

Led by Dr. Klodian Dhana, researchers from Erasmus University in Rotterdam followed 5,344 people who were 55 years old to 97 years old. The group collected the participants' physical activity, BMI, alcohol use, smoking habits, diet, family history of heart attack, and education.

Study participants were separated into three weight categories: normal, obese, and overweight. They were then divided by high or low level of physical activity.

Dhana and his colleagues found that 16 percent of participants experienced a cardiovascular event during the 15-year study.

Physical activity was related to a decrease in risk of developing heart disease, regardless of the person's BMI. There was also no link between heart disease and BMI alone.

What's more, participants who were obese or overweight did not have a higher risk of developing heart disease compared to participants with normal weight.

Instead, those who were overweight or obese with low levels of exercise and physical activity had a 1.3 percent chance of developing cardiovascular disease compared to those who had high levels of exercise.

"In the overall population, we found that physical activity was protective for cardiovascular risk," said Dhana.

However, Dhana said the research does not refute the risk linked to obesity in the general population, but it suggests that BMI may not be the most effective way to measure adiposity among the elderly.

Effects Of Obesity On The Heart

Dhana said obesity has been associated with a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. What the team now recommends is for patients to lose weight.

In the elderly, weight loss is slightly different. Unintentional weight loss has been linked to muscle loss and death, said Dhana.

Being obese or overweight can contribute to the negative effects through the adipose tissue, which speeds up the atherosclerotic process and ups chances of heart disease.

Performing sufficient amounts of exercise, however, can decrease the effects of obesity on the heart by reducing plaque on blood vessels, as well as the oxygen demands of the person's heart.

Dhana suggests that biking, walking, and housework are all helpful ways to keep your physical activity high. About 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity per week is highly recommended.

Details of the new study are issued in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

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