Fit for Life

May 26, 2011

Researchers at UT Southwestern published two studies of sixty-six thousand people last month that indicate fitness in mid-life is a strong barometer for future heart health. In these studies, treadmill testing was used to gauge cardiovascular endurance and muscle fatigue. The results were translated to average mile times, resulting in a simple formula for doctors and individuals to rate their fitness level at midlife, which will help predict long-term heart risk. One of the studies, which appeared in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, evaluated the risk of heart disease for 45, 55 and 65 year old men based on fitness level and accepted risk factors, including age, blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol and smoking habits. Researchers found that midlife fitness is an important factor in an indivual's lifetime risk for cardiovascular disease. The data from the study indicates that a man in his fifties who can run a mile in 8 minutes or under, or a woman who can run the mile in 9 minutes or less, is in a high level of fitness. A  9 minute mile for a man and 10.5 minutes for a woman displays moderate fitness, while men running a 10-minute or more mile and women needing more than 12 minutes are in the low-fitness category. Researchers performing this study stated that a higher fitness level lowers the life-long risk of heart disease even in people with other risk factors. The difference in risk for heart problems is huge. Subjects in the high fitness group have a 10 percent lifetime risk, compared with 30 percent for those in the low fitness group. A separate study, published in Circulation, found that the same treadmill test is more accurate in predicting how likely a person is to die of heart disease or stroke than assessing the risk using only typical prediction tools such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels. More study is needed before exact mile times can be used as guideposts for cardiovascular risk. However, because the pace at which a person runs is a measure of fitness that people can easily understand, it is a good starting point for measuring overall fitness. Expect to hear more about this important development soon! Another proof that a healthy regimen now will help keep you Fit for Life!

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