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More Reason to Stay Lean and Active

As you ponder your potential New Year's resolutions, you may want to consider research released last week showing that lean and active men are at far less risk of heart failure than others -- including those who, while lean, aren't physically active and those who, while physically active, aren't lean.

That means that even those among us with little extra body fat can't afford to be idle if we want to keep our hearts healthy.

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston reporting in the journal Circulation tracked more than 21,000 men ages 40 to 84 for 20 years. Most of their major findings weren't surprising: Those who were lean and active had the lowest risk of heart failure, while obese and inactive men were at highest risk. Even with adjustments made for such heart-risk factors as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, the study found that overweight men had a 49 percent higher risk of heart failure than lean men; for obese men that risk was a whopping 180 percent higher than for lean men.

The research pointed to sizable benefits for even modest amounts of exercise -- a single workout a month reduced heart failure risk, and those who got moving between once and 7 times per month lowered their risk by 18 percent compared with men who never were active. Guys who exercised five to seven times per week cut their risk by 36 percent. The caveat: To make that kind of difference, the exercise had to be of the break-a-sweat variety.

But some of the statistics were kind of alarming to those of us (the study only included men, but there's little reason to suspect we women are exempt from its implications) who figure we're in good enough shape. Compared with fellows who were both lean and active, men who were obese and inactive saw a 293 percent increase in heart failure risk. In between: lean but inactive men were 19 percent more likely to suffer heart failure than lean and active men, overweight and inactive men saw a 78 percent hike in risk, while those who were obese but active had 168 percent bigger risk than their lean and active counterparts.

And there's a big leap in risk -- 49 percent -- for men who are just overweight (defined by having a body mass index between 25 and 29.9; a BMI over 30 defined obesity, and under 25, lean) but also active.

This sounds like a wake-up call to me. Maybe it's time to trim those 10 extra pounds, once and for all.

What are your diet-and-exercise New Year's resolutions? Any bright ideas for making sure you achieve your goals in 2009?

Answer to last week's Holiday Challenge Quiz: Nearly all of you answered correctly that milk is not a major part of the Mediterranean Diet. Only 3 percent of you said beans were not, and just 2 percent of you said leafy green vegetables weren't a big part of that diet. The absence of milk from the Mediterranean way of eating has caused some to worry that the diet doesn't provide ample calcium and Vitamin D. But both beans and leafy greens are good sources of calcium, and the fatty fish in that diet supply Vitamin D.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  December 30, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Nutrition and Fitness  
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Well, I agree it would be good to lose those last 10 pounds. If I could lose 20 pounds I would be at a good weight. The problem is will power. I know a lot about food and weight loss -- the problem is will power. What do you do about that?

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | December 31, 2008 2:32 PM | Report abuse

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