NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Shedding excess pounds may restore some of the heart's youth, whether the weight loss comes from eating less or exercising more, the results of a small study suggests.
Researchers found that among 25 healthy but overweight middle-aged adults, moderate weight loss appeared to restore some the heart's youthful elasticity -- making it easier for the heart to relax between contractions and refill with blood.
It did not appear to matter whether the weight loss was achieved through diet changes or exercise, the researchers report in the American Journal of Physiology.
"If individuals want to do something that's good for their heart, then my message to them is lose weight by the method they find most tolerable," Dr. Sandor J. Kovacs, the senior researcher on the study, said in a statement.
"They're virtually guaranteed that it will have a salutary effect on their cardiovascular system," said Kovacs, a professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri.
As people age, their body tissue accumulates collagen fibers, which causes tissue -- including heart muscle and arteries -- to become more stiff. So over time, the heart starts to take a bit longer to relax between contractions and fill back up with blood.
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