If senior citizens want to prolong their lives and, especially, avoid cardiovascular disease, they need to put their efforts toward maintaining muscle mass as they age, rather than focusing on weight loss. And, the news research emphasizes this applies even to seniors who have high cardiovascular risk.
Having a high level of muscle mass helps reduce your risk of death, regardless of your body fat, says this new study on the importance of assessing body composition as a way to help predict cardiovascular and total mortality in people with cardiovascular disease, which most often are senior citizens.
Researchers from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA found that cardiovascular disease patients who have high muscle mass and low fat mass have a lower mortality risk than those with other body compositions.
Their findings also suggest that regardless of a person’s level of fat mass, a higher level of muscle mass helps reduce the risk of death.
In previous studies on the relationship between body composition and mortality, the researchers used a simpler clinical measure of body composition called the bio electrical impedance scale. They noted a possible protective effect of muscle mass on both mortality and metabolism in healthy people.
This new research extends the findings from the earlier research using dual X-ray absorptiometry, a more rigorous method of measuring body composition.
The researchers examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999 to 2004, of 6,451 participants who had prevalent cardiovascular disease.
Because people with higher muscle mass were more likely to have a high body mass index, the findings could explain the “obesity paradox,” which holds that people with a higher BMI have lower mortality levels.
The findings add to the growing evidence that overall body composition — and not the widely used body mass index, or BMI — is a better predictor of all-cause mortality
The authors suggest that clinicians encourage their patients to participate in resistance exercises as a part of healthy lifestyle changes, rather than focusing primarily on, and monitoring, weight loss.
The study was published in the American Journal of Cardiology.
Dr. Preethi Srikanthan, associate clinical professor of medicine in the division of endocrinology at the David Geffen School of Medicine, is the study’s primary investigator.
The study’s co-authors are Dr. Tamara Horwich, health sciences clinical professor of medicine, division of cardiology, and Dr. Chi-hong Tseng, adjunct associate professor of medicine in the division of general internal medicine and health services research.
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