Exercise combats metabolic syndrome in older adults

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have determined that in people age 55 to 75, a moderate program of physical exercise can significantly offset the potentially deadly mix of risk factors for heart disease and diabetes known as the metabolic syndrome. More specifically, the researchers found that exercise improved overall fitness, but the 23 percent fewer cases were more strongly linked to reductions in total and abdominal body fat and increases in muscle leanness, rather than improved fitness.

The researchers' findings raise the importance of physical exercise in treating both men and women with the metabolic syndrome, a clustering of three or more risk factors that make it more likely for a person to develop heart disease, diabetes and stroke - including high blood pressure, elevated blood glucose levels, excess abdominal fat and abnormal cholesterol levels.

The study, to be published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and available online Dec. 30, is believed to be the first to focus on the role of exercise training in treating metabolic syndrome in older persons, a group at high risk for heart disease and diabetes.

"Older people are very prone to have the metabolic syndrome," said lead study investigator and exercise physiologist Kerry Stewart, Ed.D., professor of medicine and director of clinical exercise physiology and heart health programs at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and its Heart Institute. "While each component of metabolic syndrome increases disease risk by itself, when combined, they represent an even greater risk for developing heart disease, diabetes and stroke."

To assess the benefits of a fixed program of exercise training, the Hopkins team studied a group of 104 older people for a six-month period between July 1999 and Nov. 2003. All of the participants had no previous signs of cardiovascular disease beyond untreated, mild hypertension. One half of the study participants were rand

Contact: David March
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

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