When it comes to protecting your cardiovascular system as you get older, you’ve probably heard about the importance of maintaining a healthy weight to keep your heart strong. However, a new study says that body fat isn’t the single-most critical factor in decreasing your risk of heart disease — and another key aspect will make you want to pick up a few dumbbells.
Researchers at UCLA just published a new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association looking into why rates of heart attacks amongst women between the ages of 35 and 54 have continued to go up despite the fact that death rates from heart disease have fallen over the last 50 years. In particular, scientist wondered about the relationship between body mass versus muscle mass when it came to heart conditions and incidents.
The team looked at data from over 11,000 individuals and split them into four groups: Those with low body mass and low body fat, those with low muscle mass and high body fat, those with high muscle mass and high body fat, and those with high muscle mass and low body fat.
While high body fat still accounted for higher rates of heart disease overall, researchers were surprised to find that women who had high muscle mass and high body fat were 42 percent less likely to die from heart disease than those who had similar high body fat but low muscle mass. In other words, your muscular composition can make a huge difference in your heart health, no matter your weight.
The study’s team says that their work addresses a common misconception in medicine that weight loss is the sole factor in ensuring your heart is healthy. Instead, they want health professionals to put more emphasis on gaining muscle, too. If you want to get started on your strength training journey, here are a few tips (and other great reasons) to do it. Even doing a few basic exercises (like these ones) several times a week can help you see results.