Exercise in Old Age Strengthens Your Immunity and Heart

Story at-a-glance

  • Older, very active cyclists have been shown to have stronger immune systems than their nonexercising peers, as evidenced by higher T-cell activity; in fact, their immune function was comparable to young adults in their 20s
  • A pattern of lifelong exercise is believed to contribute to your ability to retain healthy levels of muscle mass, muscle strength, body fat and cholesterol as you age
  • In a separate study, moderate- to high-intensity aerobic exercise at least four days a week increased the heart health and circulatory function of middle-aged adults, as compared to more moderate exercise performed just three days a week
  • Because sitting is a health hazard and the average adult sits nine to 10 hours a day, make a plan to incorporate more exercise and movement into your day
  • If your job requires a lot of sitting you may want to set reminders to get up and move, suggest standing meetings and take periodic stretch breaks

By Dr. Mercola

New research once again underscores the value of and need your body has for regular exercise. In one study,1 older adults who exercised regularly were shown to have stronger immune systems, as evidenced by higher T-cell activity, than their nonexercising peers. While you might expect such a result, researchers found the immune function of this particular group of very active adult cyclists, ages 55 to 79, to be comparable to young adults in their 20s!

Related research indicates a pattern of lifelong exercise also enables you to retain healthy levels of muscle mass, muscle strength, body fat and cholesterol as you age. In a separate study,2 moderate- to high-intensity aerobic exercise at least four days a week was shown to boost the heart health and circulatory function of middle-aged adults, as compared to more moderate exercise three days a week.

If you have been putting off exercise, now is the time to reprioritize it, especially if you’re over 45. One researcher called these middle years the “sweet spot” for your heart and blood vessels because they still have some plasticity, and exercise promotes elasticity and oxygen flow. Whatever you do, reduce the amount of time you spend sitting and look for ways to get more exercise and movement into your daily routine. You’re certain to feel better and your immune system and heart will thank you.

Fit Older Adults Have Stronger Immune Systems

New research published in the journal Aging Cell3 highlights the importance of exercise for older adults, noting the positive effect it can have on your immune system. Previous studies have validated the health benefits of exercise, at all ages, to prevent conditions such as back pain, bone loss, physical disability and cognitive decline.

In the current body of work,4 researchers in the U.K. analyzed the blood of 125 very active adult cyclists, ages 55 to 79, for markers of T-cells. T-cells, which help your immune system fight infections, are produced in your thymus, a gland that gradually shrinks as you age. Notably, T-cell activity was not only higher in active versus inactive older adults, but the very active cyclists were also producing a level of T-cells common among young adults in their 20s. According to Science Daily, these findings are significant to adults in the U.K., in part, because:5

  • Less than half of adults over age 65 get enough exercise to stay healthy
  • More than half of adults aged 65 or older suffer from at least two chronic diseases

“[The study] really tells us that staying physically active all of your adult life can prevent much of what we think of as aging, including immune aging,” said study author and professor Janet Lord, director of the Institute of Inflammation and Aging at the U.K.’s University of Birmingham.6 She added:7

 “The immune system declines by about 2 to 3 percent a year from our 20s, which is why older people are more susceptible to infections, conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and, potentially, cancer. Because the cyclists have the immune system of a 20-year-old rather than a 70- or 80-year-old, it means they have added protection against all these issues.”

Professor Emeritus Norman Lazarus, 82, of the Center of Human and Aerospace Physiological Sciences at King’s College London, who was a study participant and coauthor of the research, said, “If exercise was a pill, everyone would be taking it.” Professor of human and applied physiology and Center director Steve Harridge stated, “Being sedentary goes against evolution because humans are designed to be physically active.”8

Older Adults Who Exercise Regularly Do Not Lose Muscle Mass or Strength

According to Science Daily,9 the research drew from a particular subset of fit older adults. To join the study, the 125 participants had to meet the following criteria:

  • Men had to be able to cycle 100 kilometers (km), roughly 62 miles, in under 6.5 hours
  • Women had to be able to cycle 60 km, about 37 miles, in 5.5 hours
  • Excluded from consideration were smokers and heavy drinkers, as well as those suffering from high blood pressure or other health conditions

Given those baselines, the exercising group was compared to a group of nonexercisers — 75 healthy older adults ages 57 to 80 and 55 healthy young adults ages 20 to 36. About the comparisons NBC News Health said, “Here’s more evidence that regular exercise really is the best medicine: Avid cyclists as old as 79 had healthy muscle and immune function as good as people 30 years younger who did not exercise.”10

In a related study,11 interestingly, the exercise group showed no loss of muscle mass or muscle strength. Beyond that, researchers noted participant body fat and cholesterol levels did not increase with age. Moreover, they observed testosterone levels among the men remained high, aiding the participants in avoiding most of the effects of “male menopause.”

Brian Matkins, 82, a member of the internationally recognized cycling organization Audax that organizes long-distance bike rides all-around the U.K., said, “One of the first results I got from the medical study was I was told my body fat was comparable to that of a 19-year-old.” Lord stated:12

[I]mportantly, our findings debunk the assumption that aging automatically makes us frailer. Our research means we now have strong evidence that encouraging people to commit to regular exercise throughout their lives is a viable solution to the problem that we are living longer, but not healthier, [lives].”

Exercise at Middle Age May Revitalize Your Heart and Circulatory Function

Similar to your thymus gland, as mentioned, your heart also stiffens and shrinks as you age.13 It is also affected by the amount of exercise you get. A study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation,14 focusing on the exercise habits of older adults, indicates regular physical exercise can, in effect, revitalize your heart.

Ben Levine, professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, in Dallas, and his team recruited 53 adults for a two-year study. The participants, ages 45 to 64, were randomly assigned to one of two exercise groups.

Group 1 engaged in nonaerobic exercise that included basic yoga, balance training and weight training three times a week. Members of the second group were assigned a trainer and performed moderate- to high-intensity aerobic exercise at least four days a week. After two years, says Levine, the group involved in higher-intensity exercise saw dramatic improvements in their heart health. “We took these 50-year-old hearts and turned the clock back to 30- or 35-year-old hearts,” he noted.15

The hearts of participants in the higher-intensity exercise group processed oxygen more efficiently and were notably less stiff. “And the reason they got so much stronger and fitter,” Levine said, “was because their hearts could now fill a lot better and pump a lot more blood during exercise.”16

This is significant because even healthy older adults, as they age, are subject to their hearts becoming smaller, less flexible and less efficient at processing oxygen. While these signs generally begin to appear in your 50s or early 60s, a lack of exercise may speed up the process.

Levine and his colleagues suggest if you are in midlife, now is the time to get in shape. While you may think it’s too late — especially if you are 45 or older — the study reflects that even nonexercisers who get in shape at middle age may be able to avoid or reduce heart declines due to aging. “The sweet spot in life to get off the couch and start exercising … is in late middle age when the heart still has plasticity,” Levine says.17

One aspect of the study that caught my attention was the use of high-intensity interval training, one of my favorite exercise regimens. I love it because it stresses my heart and forces it to function more efficiently. In Levine’s study, the moderate- to high-intensity exercise group performed what is referred to as 4×4 intervals — four minutes of intense activity at 95 percent maximum ability, followed by three minutes of active recovery. The sequence is repeated four times and serves to strengthen both your heart and circulatory system.

A Sedentary Lifestyle Is Associated With Poor Health and Chronic Disease

Switching back to the study involving older cyclists, the fact active adults participating in the research were shown to be in better health than their nonexercising peers was not much of surprise. The benefits of exercise are both long-standing and well-known. The real news was with respect to how the group of active older adults compared to nonexercisers who were a fraction of their age. According to NBC News Health,18 “[T]they also looked as healthy, biologically, as a group of people aged 20 to 36 who did not exercise … By some measures, their bodies had not aged at all.” About the risks and consequences associated with inactivity, Harridge stated:19

“The findings emphasize the fact the cyclists do not exercise because they are healthy, but they are healthy because they have been exercising for such a large proportion of their lives. Their bodies have been allowed to age optimally, free from the problems usually caused by inactivity. Remove the activity and their health would likely deteriorate.”

His point is well taken given the current statistics about the health and activity levels of older adults. For example, in the U.S.:20

  • Approximately 80 percent of older adults suffer from at least one chronic disease, while 77 percent are battling at least two21
  • Less than 5 percent of adults get 30 minutes of daily physical activity, and only 1 in 3 adults meets the exercise recommendations issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)22 for weekly physical activity
  • Just one-third of adults ages 65 to 74 are physically active
  • More than 80 percent of adults do not meet the recommended guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities

Keep in mind the exercise recommendations made by the CDC23 of at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, or a combination of both, should be seen as a starting point. Every little bit of movement and exercise you can incorporate into your day beyond those markers will be beneficial. Research24 published in 2015 concluded the ideal exercise dose for health and longevity is actually 7.5 hours per week, or just over an hour a day.

Those who met the guidelines of 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise lowered their risk of death by 31 percent during the 14-year study period, compared to those who did not exercise. Those who tripled the recommended amount of exercise and engaged in activities such as walking for 450 minutes per week lowered their risk of premature death by 39 percent, compared to nonexercisers. Bear in mind the amount of time you spend exercising will be greatly influenced by the types of exercise you choose.

The more intense the exercise, the less time you need to spend at it. In my opinion, the best way to achieve optimal health is to adopt a comprehensive fitness routine (along with proper diet and sleep). Some forms of exercise I recommend include: core training, high-intensity interval cardio, peak fitness, strength training, stretching and walking. With respect to walking, I suggest you set a goal for 15,000 steps a day and challenge your family members and friends to achieve the same.

Sitting All Day Is Bad for Your Health

Chances are you may be sitting down while reading this article. It’s a common practice for many to sit in a chair all day for work, only to return home and spend even more hours sitting on a couch or chair. While it may sometimes be necessary and even comfortable, a growing body of research suggests this all-too-common practice is detrimental to both your physical and mental well-being.

In fact, according to the World Health Organization, sedentary behavior is the fourth leading cause of premature death worldwide.25 Prolonged sedentary time — generally defined as sitting for eight hours or more each day — has been associated with a number of health risks, independent of how much exercise you do.

As noted in the Annals of Internal Medicine,26 after evaluating 47 meta-analyses, researchers concluded, “Prolonged sedentary time was independently associated with deleterious health outcomes regardless of physical activity.” By sitting too long, the study authors suggest you increase your risk of:

  • Death from any cause
  • Developing and dying from cancer
  • Developing and dying from cardiovascular disease
  • Suffering from Type 2 diabetes

The British Medical Journal says adults, on average, spend nine to 10 hours each day sitting.27 The damaging effects of this level of inactivity simply cannot be offset by a 30- or 60-minute workout a few days a week. The key is to get more nonexercise movement into your day. As featured in the video above, to help reduce sitting and encourage movement, I use a standing desk. I also do most of my reading on a Kindle when I go for my daily walks on the beach. Some other tips you might consider to help you reduce sitting include:

Interspersing active tasks with sitting tasks as much as possible throughout your day Taking small breaks hourly and incorporating stretching and other exercise into those breaks
Inviting co-workers to take part in standing or walking-and-talking conversations and meetings (you can try this approach at home with your spouse and kids, too) Tracking how long you spend sitting and setting goals to reduce your inactive hours
Setting goals to limit your sitting time and inviting others to join you in actively reducing the amount of time you spend sitting Using reminders to trigger you to get up and move around after periods of sitting

Apple Cider Vinegar For Heart Health

Can Apple Cider Vinegar Protect Your Heart?

The short answer is yes. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is heart healthy and has a multitude of other health benefits. Let’s take a look.

Vinegar comes from the French words for “sour” and “wine”. All vinegars are mostly a mixture of acetic acid (CH3COOH) and water. Vinegar is made in a two-step fermentation process. Take ACV for example. The first step uses yeast to ferment apple juice into cider. The next step uses bacteria to change cider into vinegar. According to the makers of the most famous product, Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar, the laundry list of benefits is extensive. But let’s look at the research on ACV.


In a study from 2008, diabetic rats fed with ACV had lower LDL, lower triglycerides, and better blood sugar control while increasing HDL (1). This is animal data that cannot always be applied to humans. Can’t hurt though.

Blood Sugar

A 2004 trial showed vinegar (not specifically ACV) improves insulin sensitivity, limits sugar breakdown from dietary sources, and increases cellular uptake of glucose into skeletal muscle. These are fascinating findings for those with diabetic or pre-diabetic conditions. ACV can help everyone (2). Multiple studies have replicated these findings. In fact, 2 tablespoons of ACV at bedtime led to significant improvements in glucose control (3).


A 2014 study found that ACV decreased oxidative injury in the rodent model and improved lipid control (4). Limiting oxidation is always a good thing, especially when it comes to the human body.

Other cardiovascular benefits likely come from ACV’s ability to promote digestion and overall gut health.

But there’s more

Vinegar may help with:

  1. Weight loss (5)
  2. Cancer (6)
  3. Skin conditions (my clinical experience)

Vinegar has been used for thousands of years as a disinfectant. Multiple studies have found vinegar to be very effective against bacteria such as E. coli and even mycobacteria such as tuberculosis! (7)

You see, those old home remedies do work.

How to use Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a great addition to olive oil and sea salt for a delicious salad dressing.olive oil

For people with heartburn or reflux, try 1 tablespoon of ACV in a little water prior to a meal. Sip on ACV in water at 50/50 combo in between meals and before bed. Brush your teeth afterward.

For skin warts or fungal toes, “paint” the area with a Q-tip 2-3x per day. This may take 2-3 months to resolve the affected area. No risk in trying and 100% safe compared with toxic prescription drugs.


  1. Pak J Biol Sci. 2008 Dec 1;11(23):2634-8.
  2. Diabetes Care January 2004 vol. 27 no. 1 281-282
  3. Diabetes Care November 2007vol. 30 no. 11 2814-2815
  4. J Membr Biol. 2014 Aug;247(8):667-73.
  5. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2009 Aug;73(8):1837-43.
  6. Biofactors. 2004;22(1-4):93-7.
  7. J Food Prot. 1998 Aug;61(8):953-9.


Nerve cells actively repress alternative cell fates, researchers find

A neural cell maintains its identity by actively suppressing the expression of genes associated with non-neuronal cell types, including skin, heart, lung, cartilage and liver, according to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

 It does so with a powerful . “When this protein is missing, neural cells get a little confused,” said Marius Wernig, MD, associate professor of pathology. “They become less efficient at transmitting nerve signals and begin to express genes associated with other cell fates.”

The study marks the first identification of a near-global repressor that works to block many cell fates but one. It also suggests the possibility of a network of as-yet-unidentified master regulators specific to each cell type in the body.

“The concept of an inverse master regulator, one that represses many different developmental programs rather than activating a single program, is a unique way to control neuronal cell identity, and a completely new paradigm as to how cells maintain their throughout an organism’s lifetime,” Wernig said.

Because the protein, Myt1l, has been found to be mutated in people with autism, schizophrenia and major depression, the discovered mode of action may provide new opportunities for therapeutic intervention for these conditions, the researchers said.

Wernig is the senior author of the study, which will be published online April 5 in Nature. Postdoctoral scholars Moritz Mall, PhD, and Michael Kareta, PhD, are the lead authors.


Myt1l is not the only protein known to repress certain cell fates. But most other known repressors specifically block only one type of developmental program, rather than many. For example, a well-known repressor called REST is known to block the neuronal pathway, but no others.

“Until now, researchers have focused only on identifying these types of single-lineage repressors,” said Wernig. “The concept of an ‘everything but’ repressor is entirely new.”

In 2010, Wernig showed that it is possible to convert skin into functional neurons over the course of three weeks by exposing them to a combination of just three proteins that are typically expressed in neurons. This “direct reprogramming” bypassed a step called induced pluripotency that many scientists had thought was necessary to transform one cell type into another.

 One of the proteins necessary to accomplish the transformation of skin to neurons was Myt1l. But until this study the researchers were unaware precisely how it functioned.

“Usually we think in terms about what regulatory programs need to be activated to direct a cell to a specific developmental state,” said Wernig. “So we were surprised when we took a closer look and saw that Myt1l was actually suppressing the expression of many genes.”

These genes, the researchers found, encoded proteins important for the development of lung, heart, liver, cartilage and other types of non-neuronal tissue. Furthermore, two of the proteins, Notch and Wnt, are known to actively block neurogenesis in the developing brain.

Blocking Myt1l expression in the brains of embryonic mice reduced the number of mature neurons that developed in the animals. Furthermore, knocking down Myt1l expression in mature neurons caused them to express lower-than-normal levels of neural-specific genes and to fire less readily in response to an electrical pulse.

‘A perfect team’

Wernig and his colleagues contrasted the effect of Myt1l with that of another protein called Ascl1, which is required to directly reprogram skin fibroblasts into neurons. Ascl1 is known to specifically induce the expression of neuronal genes in the fibroblasts.

“Together, these proteins work as a perfect team to funnel a developing cell, or a cell that is being reprogrammed, into the desired cell fate,” said Wernig. “It’s a beautiful scenario that both blocks the fibroblast program and promotes the neuronal program. My gut feeling would be that there are many more master repressors like Myt1l to be found for specific cell types, each of which would block all but one cell fate.”


The Big Fat Lie You’ve Been Told About What’s Hurting Your Heart

Despite multiple studies showing that carbohydrates hurt your heart, and not saturated fats, misguided advisories and Big Pharma profiteering both persist.

There is no need to stay away from meat, butter, cheese and eggs to keep your heart healthy. Credit: RitaE/pixabay

There is no need to stay away from meat, butter, cheese and eggs to keep your heart healthy.

I’ve been taught since my undergraduate days in medical college that eating saturated fats was to ask for trouble. Meat (red or white), cheese, butter and egg yolk were prohibited. Repeated guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA), the American College of Cardiology and even the World Health Organisation were clear that fats in general, and saturated fats in particular, were to be strictly avoided to prevent a heart attack. The message was to reduce fats to less than 30% of the total calories consumed in a day, and with saturated fats to be kept well below 10%. Why, most people on the planet followed these dietary commandments from the two most powerful and respected cardiology associations.

The AHA declared in 1961 that saturated fats were bad because they increased blood cholesterol, which blocked coronary arteries and caused heart attacks. Surprisingly, the AHA was driven this conclusion by the hypothesis of one physiologist who didn’t bother to submit a shred of evidence. Ancel Benjamin Keys, a physiologist with a PhD from Cambridge University, stamped his ‘diet heart’ hypothesis into the consciousness of Paul Dudley White, a founder-member of the AHA. White was attending to Dwight Eisenhower, then the US president, who suffered his first heart attack in September 1955. Many middle aged Americans were succumbing to heart attacks in the 1950s and the situation demanded convincing answers from the health community. Eisenhower had helmed NATO and, before that, had been the supreme commander of the Allied forces that wrenched Europe back Europe from the Nazis.

Eisenhower managed the brilliant generals George Patton and Bernard Montgomery, and famously warned the American public in his farewell address of the “military-industrial complex”. But as president, he had no clue of the new and rapidly developing “health-pharmaceutical-industrial complex.”

Keys was able to launch his ‘diet heart’ hypothesis because there was little science available in the 1950s that could explain the near-epidemic heart attack among middle-aged Americans. He presented his “seven countries study” that displayed a clear association between eating greater amounts of saturated fats and deaths due to heart disease. The seven countries were the US, Japan, Yugoslavia, Netherlands, Italy, Greece and Finland. The method behind the study was seriously flawed, however.

The biggest was that Keys had cherry-picked these countries because they supported his hypothesis. He left out 15 countries that did not reveal any association between saturated-fat consumption and heart mortality. He conveniently ignored Denmark, Sweden and Norway, each of which had relatively few deaths from heart attacks in spite of sporting diets with lots of saturated fats. And Chile, on the other hand, had a high cardiac mortality despite eating little saturated fats. An unbiased investigator would have realised these problems in Keys’ hypothesis – as they do now – but didn’t: they hadn’t been presented with the complete data.

Keys also checked food samples for fats in less than 4% of the 12,000 participants he studied, and when the food was studied it was checked for a single day among the American and for less than a week among the European participants. Keys had been impressed by the large number of long-lived people on the Greek island of Crete, but had tested them when they’d been fasting for more than a month during a religious festival. In this period, more than 60% of the population abstained from meat, butter and cheese. This led Keys to the wrong conclusion that a low-fat diet was the key to longevity.

The AHA was so impressed by the ‘diet heart’ hypothesis that it made an official policy of it, and voila! By 1977, more than 220 million Americans were being urged by the US government to adhere to a low-fat diet. The British, true to form, officially imposed the same diet guidelines by 1984 on their subjects.

Remarkably, the AHA ignored no fewer than six randomised studies – including almost 2,500 heart patients – that showed no difference in mortality between the intervention group (low saturated-fat diet) and the control group (which continued with its regular eating habits). Both the intervention and control cohorts had 370 deaths each. Moreover, no women were being studied, and in the absence of a single primary prevention trial, the AHA and the US government had formulated their advisories.

The food industry also got in on the action. Vegetable oils started being manufactured in the millions of tons. Leading them all was Procter and Gamble, which began to aggressively market cottonseed oil – as well as make a sizeable donation to the AHA, an amount worth $20 million today. The corresponding “diet-food-health-industrial complex” has not looked back in the 60 years since.

The largest randomised trial assessing the effects of a low-fat diet on heart and cardiovascular diseases was the Women’s Health Initiative. It followed up 49,000 postmenopausal women who had been on a low-fat diet (alongside an increased intake of fruits, vegetables and grains) for eight years but had failed to lower their risks of death, heart attack, stroke or diabetes.

Two large reviews and meta-analyses (this and this) involving more than 600,000 participants have also failed to show any reduction in cardiovascular events, or death, by replacing saturated fats with vegetable oils. There was an increase in cardiovascular events due to trans-fats.

The Minnesota, DIRECT, Framingham and PURE studies

In 1967-1973, doctors intervened in the diets of a group of people randomly picked from a cohort of 9,000 for the famous Minnesota Coronary Experiment. The intervened group had saturated fats replaced by a polyunsaturated vegetable oil. The control group continued with their regular American diet. These people were from enrolled from mental institutions and from homes for the elderly. More than 2,500 participants continued on their respective diets for at least a year, and autopsy reports were available for about 140 deaths. This trial’s results were never published until a group of investigators got its hands on all the raw data.

They were dumbstruck to learn that the autopsies revealed 42% of the people in the intervention group had suffered a heart attack against only 22% in the control group. Both groups had similar amounts of atherosclerosis in their coronary arteries.

The other major finding was that, in spite of a 13% reduction in blood cholesterol with a vegetable-oil diet, there was a paradoxical 30% higher mortality in people older than 65 years. To explain this, the investigators hypothesised that the lowered cholesterol had the denser LDL particles that are oxidised more easily and so invade the coronary faster. As it happened, the principal investigator of the Minnesota Coronary Experiment was none other than Ancel Keys.

The other distinct possibility (to explain the mortality paradox) is that polyunsaturated vegetable oils produce hundreds of oxidised molecules that are toxic to the human body. For example, the aldehydes are carcinogenic apart from being able to compromise cognition. Another randomised trial assessing the replacement of saturated fats by corn oil also showed an increased mortality against the control group.

More recently, the DIRECT trial finished up in Israel in 2008. It divided participants into three groups. The first was kept on a low-fat diet; the second, a Mediterranean diet; and the third, a low-carbohydrate high-fat diet. At the end of follow-up period, the low carbohydrate high fat group was found to have lost the most weight, have the highest levels of HDL (a.k.a., ‘good cholesterol’) and have triglyceride levels lower than the high-fat group. In fact, the low-carbohydrate high-fat group also had better metabolic markers across the board.

The Framingham study, which began in 1948 and still continues, has been following the consumption of dietary fats and the development of heart disease among its 5000+ inhabitants, chosen from Framingham, Massachusetts. At the end of the first follow-up, the investigators were unable to find any correlation between fat-intake, cholesterol and heart disease.

But like with the Minnesota Coronary Experiment, the data was never deliberately published. In William Kannel, who served as the study’s the chief investigator in 1969-1979, at one point even stated: “That blood cholesterol is somehow intimately related to coronary atherosclerosis is no longer subject to reasonable doubt.” After a 30-year follow-up, the study reported that 1 mg% per year reduction in cholesterol was associated with 14% increased cardiovascular mortality and 11% total mortality.

Finally: the Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological (PURE) survey examined cardiovascular risk factors around the world in 2003-2009, with more than 150,000 participants. Though the results are yet to be published, a recently leaked (and now unavailable) video stated that there seemed to be no correlation between saturated fats (red meat, white meat, dairy products) and heart disease but a positive correlation between carbohydrates and heart disease. Moreover, a very sensitive cardiac-risk-factor marker was found to have increased with carbohydrates and reduced by saturated fats. Vegetables and fruits had no effect on the marker.

Though the PURE trial was very large, it was an observational that, strictly speaking, can’t explain causality.

So, based on the evidence obtained from well-conducted clinical trials, Keys’s ‘diet heart’ hypothesis is wrong. However, it remains to be seen when the big cardiac bureaucracies will begin to edit their guidelines. The ‘big cholesterol is bad’ maxim remains firmly in place because its persistence allows drugmakers to persist with large profit margins on drugs that may not even be necessary. Precisely this was confirmed by the FOURIER trial presented in the American College of Cardiology Meeting held in March 2017.

FOURIER was a ‘mega-trial’ that randomised 28,000 cardiac patients to a statin-plus-evelocumab versus a only-statins for two years. The annual cost of an evelocumab regime is $14,000 (Rs 9 lakh). In the end, LDL cholesterol levels had plunged to about 30 mg% in the evelocumab group versus about 90 mg in the only-statins group. There was also a 1.5% absolute reduction in stroke and myocardial infarction risks but – get this – no reduction in mortality. Implication: 75 patients will need to be treated for two years to prevent a single heart attack or stroke, at a total cost of Rs 13.5 crore. You’re likely to get a better deal without spending a penny by following the Copenhagen study: 10 minutes of slow-jogging per day reduced mortality by 70% compared to being sedentary the whole day.

It’s difficult to not feel dizzy when confronted by organisations like the AHA and the WHO, which have converted hypotheses into dogma etched on stone without any evidence in the past. But what then would be good and sane dietary advice to a layperson? There has to be an application of common-sense, a request to continue to eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts. At the same time, there is no need to stay away from meat, butter, cheese and eggs. There is no evidence that eating saturated fats along with reasonable amounts of proteins, with about 45% of calories as carbohydrates will, trigger a heart attack. Au contraire: evidence has emerged that increasing carbohydrates to 55% or more can actually be harmful to the heart. Even the current obesity epidemic and type-2 diabetes are most likely the handiwork of an increased carbohydrate intake that has replaced fats in people’s diets.




About 5.7 million Americans suffer from heart failure, meaning their hearts don’t pump blood as well as they should. The affliction costs the nation about $32 billion a year, and there’s no cure. But a squishy, air-powered robot might be able to help.

A team lead by engineers at Harvard University is testing a silicone sleeve that slips over the bottom of the heart like a cocoon, then inflates and deflates to squeeze the heart and give it a powerful beat. Proof-of-concept studies showed that the soft robot restored normal blood flow in six pigs whose hearts had stopped.

There’s still a lot more work to be done, including long-term studies in animals (and then humans). But if the experiments continue to be successful, the robot may one day provide an alternative to the current treatment for severe heart failure. Doctors implant ventricular assist devices (VADs) to keep a patient’s heart pumping while waiting for a transplant, or to keep them alive indefinitely.

ventricular assist device


Ventricular assist devices (VADs) are the current standard of treatment for severe heart failure. But they require patients to take blood thinners to avoid clots.

VADs pipe blood from the heart through a mechanical pump and then into the arteries. The machines save lives, but because they come in direct contact with blood, the patient has to be on blood thinners to avoid clots that gum up the works.

The soft robotic pump doesn’t come into contact with blood. The thin sleeve slips over the outside of the heart, twisting and contracting to mimic the muscle’s natural movements.

To test it, the researchers induced cardiac arrest in six pigs, then used the sleeve to get their hearts pumping blood again for 15 minutes or more.

That’s promising news, but several challenges lie ahead. After getting squeezed and released by the device for two hours, pig and rodent heart tissue became inflamed, especially in the region where a suction cup secured the device to the heart. Attempts to fix the problem by coating the heart with a hydrogel before attaching the device didn’t quite work, so the researchers will have to develop some other kind of adhesive.

The system is also fairly bulky. The heart sleeve is tethered to an external air compressor that continually inflates and deflates it. The authors hope to make the system more portable, so that the air compressor and power supply could be worn on a belt around the waist, but it’s likely the next version will still have cables sticking out of the patient’s torso to connect the sleeve to the power supply. That’s similar to today’s VADs. But eventually the technology might become fully implantable.

Maybe one day the device will help treat other types of cardiac diseases, says study co-author Ellen Roche, as well as fix ailments in other organs. Who knew hugs could pack so much healing power?

Calcium supplements may damage the heart.

Taking calcium in the form of supplements may raise the risk of plaque buildup in arteries and heart damage, although a diet high in calcium-rich foods appears be protective, say researchers at conclusion of their study that analyzed 10 years of medical tests on more than 2,700 people.

More than half of women over 60 take calcium supplements — many without the oversight of a physician — because they believe it will reduce their risk of osteoporosis, researchers estimate.

After analyzing 10 years of medical tests on more than 2,700 people in a federally funded heart disease study, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine and elsewhere conclude that taking calcium in the form of supplements may raise the risk of plaque buildup in arteries and heart damage, although a diet high in calcium-rich foods appears be protective.

In a report on the research, published Oct. 10 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the researchers caution that their work only documents an association between calcium supplements and atherosclerosis, and does not prove cause and effect.

But they say the results add to growing scientific concerns about the potential harms of supplements, and they urge a consultation with a knowledgeable physician before using calcium supplements. An estimated 43 percent of American adult men and women take a supplement that includes calcium, according the National Institutes of Health.

“When it comes to using vitamin and mineral supplements, particularly calcium supplements being taken for bone health, many Americans think that more is always better,” says Erin Michos, M.D., M.H.S., associate director of preventive cardiology and associate professor of medicine at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “But our study adds to the body of evidence that excess calcium in the form of supplements may harm the heart and vascular system.”

The researchers were motivated to look at the effects of calcium on the heart and vascular system because studies already showed that “ingested calcium supplements — particularly in older people — don’t make it to the skeleton or get completely excreted in the urine, so they must be accumulating in the body’s soft tissues,” says nutritionist John Anderson, Ph.D., professor emeritus of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health and a co-author of the report. Scientists also knew that as a person ages, calcium-based plaque builds up in the body’s main blood vessel, the aorta and other arteries, impeding blood flow and increasing the risk of heart attack.

The investigators looked at detailed information from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, a long-running research project funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, which included more than 6,000 people seen at six research universities, including Johns Hopkins. Their study focused on 2,742 of these participants who completed dietary questionnaires and two CT scans spanning 10 years apart.

The participants chosen for this study ranged in age from 45 to 84, and 51 percent were female. Forty-one percent were white, 26 percent were African-American, 22 percent were Hispanic and 12 percent were Chinese. At the study’s onset in 2000, all participants answered a 120-part questionnaire about their dietary habits to determine how much calcium they took in by eating dairy products; leafy greens; calcium-enriched foods, like cereals; and other calcium-rich foods. Separately, the researchers inventoried what drugs and supplements each participant took on a daily basis. The investigators used cardiac CT scans to measure participants’ coronary artery calcium scores, a measure of calcification in the heart’s arteries and a marker of heart disease risk when the score is above zero. Initially, 1,175 participants showed plaque in their heart arteries. The coronary artery calcium tests were repeated 10 years later to assess newly developing or worsening coronary heart disease.

For the analysis, the researchers first split the participants into five groups based on their total calcium intake, including both calcium supplements and dietary calcium. After adjusting the data for age, sex, race, exercise, smoking, income, education, weight, smoking, drinking, blood pressure, blood sugar and family medical history, the researchers separated out 20 percent of participants with the highest total calcium intake, which was greater than 1,400 milligrams of calcium a day. That group was found to be on average 27 percent less likely than the 20 percent of participants with the lowest calcium intake — less than 400 milligrams of daily calcium — to develop heart disease, as indicated by their coronary artery calcium test.

Next, the investigators focused on the differences among those taking in only dietary calcium and those using calcium supplements. Forty-six percent of their study population used calcium supplements.

The researchers again accounted for the same demographic and lifestyle factors that could influence heart disease risk, as in the previous analysis, and found that supplement users showed a 22 percent increased likelihood of having their coronary artery calcium scores rise higher than zero over the decade, indicating development of heart disease.

“There is clearly something different in how the body uses and responds to supplements versus intake through diet that makes it riskier,” says Anderson. “It could be that supplements contain calcium salts, or it could be from taking a large dose all at once that the body is unable to process.”

Among participants with highest dietary intake of calcium — over 1,022 milligrams per day — there was no increase in relative risk of developing heart disease over the 10-year study period.

“Based on this evidence, we can tell our patients that there doesn’t seem to be any harm in eating a heart-healthy diet that includes calcium-rich foods, and it may even be beneficial for the heart,” says Michos. “But patients should really discuss any plan to take calcium supplements with their doctor to sort out a proper dosage or whether they even need them.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, coronary heart disease kills over 370,000 people each year in the U.S. More than half of women over 60 take calcium supplements — many without the oversight of a physician — because they believe it will reduce their risk of osteoporosis.

Bigger Biceps May Benefit Your Heart

Here’s why your muscles may help decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease BY THE EDITORS OF MEN’S HEALTH

bigger biceps good for heart
In new research from UCLA, male heart patients with the most arm and leg muscle and the least belly fat were 68 percent less likely to die of cardiovascular disease over seven years than thin guys with less arm and leg muscle.
The reason: Muscles promote better insulin function, which might play a role in slowing the development of heart trouble, according to the researchers.

While the UCLA study only measured the muscle in the participants’ limbs, your best bet is to focus on building muscle on your entire body. That’s because the better your body composition, the leaner you’ll ultimately be.

Muscle increases your resting metabolic rate, burning a higher amount of calories—and belly fat—around the clock.

And a healthy weight leads to a healthy heart. A 10-year Mayo Clinic study found that overweight people had heart attacks 3.6 years earlier than normal-weight people did. And obese heart-attack patients tended to be 8.2 years younger than normal-weight victims.

For a program that will make you stronger and help you lose weight, try THE 21-DAY METASHRED from the Men’s Health Fitness Director. The challenging 30-minute workouts hit every muscle in your body, and create a calorie burn for up to 48 hours after you’re finished. (One guy lost 25 pounds in 6 weeks!)


Calcium and vitamin D supplements safe for the heart

Calcium and vitamin D supplements were not associated with increased risk of cardiovascular events, supporting the cardiovascular safety of such supplementation, according to the UK Biobank data presented at the recent 2016 World Congress on Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases (WCO-IOF-ESCEO 2016) held in Malaga, Spain.

Calcium vitamin D safe for heart cardiovascular disease

“Calcium supplementation is widely used, including as an adjunct to therapy for osteoporosis,” said lead author Professor Nicholas Harvey, a consultant rheumatologist from the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at the University of Southampton in Southampton, UK.

Prior studies have reported conflicting information about whether or not supplemental calcium and/or vitamin D increased the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), myocardial infarction (MI), CVD death or other heart-related incidents, and most of these were not designed to specifically examine the relationships.

“Our results, using the largest single study to date, provide reassurance that such supplementation appears safe,” said Harvey.

The longitudinal study analysed data from 502,664 participants (mean age 58 years) in the UK Biobank. Out of these, 34,890 (6.94 percent) reported taking calcium supplements, 20,004 (3.97 percent) took vitamin D supplements, and 10,406 (2.1 percent) took both supplements. [WCO-IOF-ESCEO 2016; abstract P311]

The researchers found no association between taking calcium supplements and risk of incident hospital admission (ICD-10) with ischaemic heart disease (IHD) (for women: adjusted hazard ratio [adjHR], 1.06, 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 0.85-1.31; p=0.62, and for men: adjHR, 1.02, 95 percent CI, 0.80-1.30; p=0.87).

Also, taking calcium supplements was not associated with risk of death from IHD (for women: adjHR, 0.71, 95 percent CI, 0.32-1.61; p=0.42, and for men: adjHR, 0.92, 95 percent CI, 0.52-1.62; p=0.76). Similar results were observed for vitamin D or combination supplements.

These findings remained even after accounting for confounders such as age, body mass index (BMI), educational status, blood pressure, and in women, use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

The UK Biobank is a large prospective cohort of 502,664 people aged 40 to 69 years. Calcium and vitamin D supplementation was self-reported by the participants, who were followed-up on ICD-10 for IHD and IHD-related death for up to 7 years.

“The Heart Literally Has Its Own Brain”

Did you know the heart is not just a ‘blood pump’ but contains its own neurons and intelligence?

For over 22 years, Gregg Braden has searched high mountain villages, remote monasteries and forgotten texts to uncover their timeless secrets. Combining his discoveries with the best science of today, his original research crosses the traditional boundaries of science, history, and religion offering fresh insights into ancient mysteries. In this video he reveals how the heart is not just a blood pump, but contains neurons and exhibits intelligence.

The Institute of HeartMath is an internationally recognized nonprofit research and education organization dedicated to helping people reduce stress, self-regulate emotions and build energy and resilience for healthy, happy lives. Personal coherence, also known as psychophysiological coherence, refers to the synchronization of our physical, mental and emotional systems. It can be measured by our heart-rhythm patterns: The more balanced and smooth they are, the more in sync, or coherent, we are.

Personal coherence, also known as psychophysiological coherence, refers to the synchronization of our physical, mental and emotional systems. It can be measured by our heart-rhythm patterns: The more balanced and smooth they are, the more in sync, or coherent, we are.

Global coherence refers to the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of the greater community of human beings, while acting in concert with their own hearts, each other and nation to nation in harmony with our living planet. HeartMath believes coherence on a grand scale is highly achievable when large numbers of people focus their heart intelligence on a common goal.

Why Cutting Back on Fat Isn’t Enough to Help the Heart

We all know that to keep our hearts healthy, we should avoid fatty foods like red meat, dairy and cheese. But a new study points out that to really protect against heart disease, you also need to eat more healthy fats

Health experts have given us a very clear message about fat in recent years — they warn us that animal fats can build up within our heart vessel walls and lead to plaques that can cause heart attacks, strokes and other heart problems.

But not all fats are equal, and there’s growing evidence that healthy fats — the ones found in plants, nuts and fish known as polyunsaturated fats — can actually protect the heart and dramatically lower risk of heart problems. In a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers calculate exactly how much each type of fat can contribute to heart disease deaths.


Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition and Science Policy, and his colleagues found that eating too little vegetable oils contributes to more heart-related deaths than eating saturated fats. In fact, only 3.6% of global heart deaths can be attributed to eating too much saturated fat, while just over 10% of heart deaths can be traced to eating too little plant oils — a three-fold difference. The study included detailed dietary information from studies involving 3.8 billion people in 186 countries.

While numerous studies support the benefits of eating more polyunsaturated fat, Mozaffarian notes that dietary guidelines, including the most recent revision released by the U.S. government, continue to stress limiting saturated fats rather than increasing healthy fats. The latest recommendations urge Americans to eat no more than 10% of their daily calories from saturated fats, which include coconut and palm oils as well as red meats and dairy products. But history shows that when people lower the amount of saturated fat they eat, they tend to replace it with carbohydrates, which can turn into triglycerides and get stored as fat.

Mozaffarian’s study shows that for this reason, just reducing saturated fat is important, but not enough. Countries where people eat more plant and vegetable oils had fewer heart deaths due related to consuming too little polyunsaturated fat, while countries such as Russia, Germany and Egypt had the greatest burden of heart deaths traced to inadequate amounts of vegetable oils.

Overall, the data also showed that heart-related deaths that could be blamed on saturated fats have dropped by 21% from 1990 to 2010, while deaths because people are eating too few healthy fats only declined by 9%. Deaths due to increased consumption of trans fats, found in many processed foods, however, went up by 4%. That strongly suggests that nutrition about fats needs to be more refined so people are aware of not just the dangers, but the potential benefits of different types of fats, says Mozaffarian.

“Our findings are consistent with the recent dietary guidelines to eliminate industrial trans fats,” says Mozaffarian, “and to replace saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat. What’s missing is the crucial advice that just increasing healthy vegetable oils can substantially reduce heart disease risk even further.”