Lifelong exercise keeps elders' hearts as healthy as young people

If you're looking for motivation to start an exercise routine, Dr. Paul Bhella has found it for you.

The JPS Health Network cardiologist was part of a team that conducted nationally recognized research that revealed how a lifelong commitment to physical fitness can preserve heart muscle equal to or even exceeding those of younger, healthy people who do not exercise.

The eye-opening findings highlight the importance of maintaining regular physical activity during one's life, he said.

"This shows how a life-long commitment to exercise has multiple beneficial affects on the heart and blood vessels," Bhella said.

Bhella presented the research this month at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Cardiology. The study was performed with Texas Health Resources and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

Bhella is the first to acknowledge that telling people that exercise is good for them is no news flash. But this research shows how it benefits them and suggests how much exercise is necessary to achieve those benefits.

Bhella and a team of researchers studied the hearts of people over 65 who exercised varying amounts in their lifetime, including those who did not do it at all. They also looked at people under 35 who were healthy but physically inactive.

As people age, their hearts naturally lose mass and elasticity. That puts older people at higher risk of heart failure.

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