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What’s Better For Your Heart Health: Diet Or Exercise?

What’s Better For Your Heart Health: Diet or Exercise?

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It’s the age-old question: Is diet, exercise, or a combination of both the best way to protect your heart?

Turns out, it doesn’t matter—as long as you lose weight doing it, new research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests.

In the study, overweight, middle-age participants were split into three groups: One decreased calorie consumption by 20 percent, the second increased physical activity by 20 percent, and the third decreased calorie intake by 10 percent and moved 10 percent more.

The researchers discovered that each of the three strategies was equally effective in improving measures of heart health—like lowering blood pressure, decreasing bad cholesterol, and improving resting heart rate so it fell between the average of 60 to 100 beats per minute—as long as the participants lost weight in the process.

In fact, those who lost at least 7 percent of their body weight reduced their risk of heart disease by 22 percent, the researchers estimate.

That’s likely because gaining weight sparks microscopic damage to your blood vessels and other tissues, says lead researcher Edward Weiss, Ph.D., associate professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University. Your body responds by cranking up inflammation to try to repair that damage. Over time, this response can contribute to plaque development in arteries, especially those that feed blood, oxygen and nutrients to the working heart muscle.

It’s this coronary artery blockage that causes heart attacks, Weiss says.

But by reducing weight, you lower the system-wide inflammation that can wreak havoc on your heart.

So does that mean you can eat whatever you’d like as long as you exercise enough to lose weight? Or that you can stop hitting the gym, as long as you cut your food intake to drop some pounds?

It’s not quite that simple: Combining diet and exercise together likely exerts additional health benefits—like lowering bad cholesterol—making them even more heart-protective as a duo, Weiss says.

What’s more, it’s easier for most people to lose weight with a combination of both diet and exercise—that way, you’re only reducing your calorie intake a little bit, and upping your activity a notch, rather than the more drastic change you’d have to make with only one or the other to see results.

So make a diet and exercise combo your move: Even shooting to lose as little as 5 percent of your weight can make a big difference in your heart risk, Weiss says.

Story Credit: http://www.menshealth.com/health/diet-or-exercise-for-your-heart-health