Two decades of a sedentary lifestyle is associated with a two times risk of premature death compared to being physically active, according to results from the HUNT study presented last week at European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress 2019 together with the World Congress of Cardiology.
Study author, Dr. Trine Moholdt of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway said: “Our findings imply that to get the maximum health benefits of physical activity in terms of protection against premature all-cause and cardiovascular death, you need to continue being physically active. You can also reduce your risk by taking up physical activity later in life, even if you have not been active before.” The aim of this study was to assess how changes in physical activity over 22 years were related to subsequent death from all causes and from cardiovascular disease. Most studies investigating the relationship between physical activity and longevity have asked participants about their level of physical activity only once, and then followed them for several years. But physical activity is a behaviour that changes in many people, so it is important to investigate how such changes over time relate to the risk of death in the future.
Also, a new research suggests that switching to a high-protein vegetarian diet could help you live longer and stay healthier into your twilight years. Scientists at Japan’s Center for Public Health Sciences followed 70,696 Japanese adults for nearly 20 years and found that those who got most of their dietary protein from plant foods had a lower risk of dying of any cause. Western diets tend to be high in red meat and processed foods, and Westerners die of high rates of heart disease and obesity-linked diseases.
The new study’s authors suggest that swapping steak out in favor of high-protein plant-foods like tofu, beans, tempeh, edamame and quinoa could actually cut your risk of death. In the last several years, high protein diets have gained popularity because they can help curb appetite by making you feel full and can lead to quite quick weight loss.
Similar to the keto diet hailed by the likes of Kim Kardashian West and LeBron James, high protein diets help you shed water weight and trigger ketosis, a physical state in which the body uses fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. It certainly works for many people – but doctors and nutritionists worry that it might not be a sustainable or healthy way to eat, long-term.
For one, eating so much protein and so few carbohydrates may lead to nutritional deficits. But studies suggest that meat protein may be harmful to our health in other ways. Red and processed meats contain saturated fats that build up in the blood vessels, narrowing them and stressing heart and cardiovascular system.
So, while a high protein diet may be good for weight loss and muscle development, it could harm your heart if meat is the main source of that protein. But the long-term consequences of these diets compared to others aren’t well understood.
Meanwhile, eating nuts at least twice a week is associated with a 17 per cent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, according to research presented last week at European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress 2019 together with the World Congress of Cardiology. “Nuts are a good source of unsaturated fat and contain little saturated fat,” said study author Dr. Noushin Mohammadifard of Isfahan Cardiovascular Research Institute, Iran.
“They also have protein, minerals, vitamins, fibre, phytosterols, and polyphenols which benefit heart health. European and US studies have related nuts with cardiovascular protection but there is limited evidence from the Eastern Mediterranean Region.”
This study examined the association between nut consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease and death in the Iranian population. A total of 5,432 adults aged 35 and older with no history of cardiovascular disease were randomly selected from urban and rural areas of the Isfahan, Arak and Najafabad counties. Intake of nuts including walnuts, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, and seeds was assessed in 2001 with a validated food frequency questionnaire.
Participants or family members were interviewed every two years until 2013 for the occurrence of cardiovascular events and death.
The specific outcomes investigated were coronary heart disease, stroke, total cardiovascular disease, death from any cause, and death from cardiovascular disease. During a median 12-year follow-up, there were 751 cardiovascular events (594 coronary heart disease and 157 stroke), 179 cardiovascular deaths, and 458 all-cause deaths.
Eating nuts two or more times per week was associated with a 17 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular mortality compared to consuming nuts once every two weeks. The connection was robust even after adjusting for factors that could influence the relationship such as age, sex, education, smoking, and physical activity. Nut intake was inversely associated with the other outcomes but lost significance after adjustment.
Meanwhile, the HUNT study invited all residents of Norway aged 20 and older to participate in 1984-1986, 1995-1997, and 2006-2008. At all three time points, individuals were asked about their frequency and duration of leisure time physical activity. The current study used the data from the first and third surveys.
A total of 23,146 men and women were included in the analysis. Physical activity was categorised as inactive, moderate (less than two hours a week), and high (two or more hours per week). Participants were divided into groups according to their activity levels at each survey.
Physical activity data were linked to information on deaths until the end of 2013 using the Norwegian Cause of Death Registry. The risk of death in each physical activity group was compared to the reference group (those who reported a high level of exercise during both surveys). The analyses were adjusted for factors known to influence prognosis such as body mass index, age, sex, smoking, education level, and blood pressure.
Compared to the reference group, people who were inactive in both 1984-1986 and 2006-2008 had a two-fold higher likelihood of all-cause death and 2.7-fold greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Those with moderate activity at both time points had 60 per cent and 90 per cent raised risks of all-cause and cardiovascular deaths, respectively, compared to the reference group.
Moholdt noted that there are clear recommendations about the amount of exercise adults should do to optimise their health, which are 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity.
But she added: “An important point to make here is that physical activity levels even below the advised levels will give health benefits. Physical fitness is more important than the amount of exercise. Clinicians should individualise their advice and help people do even smaller amounts of activity that will improve fitness — this includes all types of exercise that make you breathe heavily.”
“Do activities you like and get more movement into your everyday life,” she continued. “For example, walk to the shops instead of driving, get off the metro a stop early, and use stairs instead of the lift. I recommend everyone to get out of breath at least a couple of times each week.”
As for those who changed categories between surveys, people who went from inactive to highly active had a mortality risk that was between those who were continually active or continually sedentary. In contrast, those who went from highly active to inactive had a similar risk of dying as those who were inactive at both surveys.
“Our data indicate that you can compensate for a previously inactive lifestyle and the sooner you get active, the sooner you will see positive results,” said Moholdt. “My advice is to establish good exercise habits as early in life as possible. The health benefits extend beyond protection against premature death to effects in the body’s organs and on cognitive function. Physical activity helps us live longer and better lives.” Meanwhile, in Japan, foods like tofu and beans rare more common sources of protein than in the US and other Western nations.
So scientists in Japan studied the long-term differences death risks for people who eat a lot of plant protein and those who get more of the nutrient from plant-based foods. For an average of 20 years, they followed their sample of over 70,500 people. They kept tabs on what diseases the group developed and died of over those two decades.
Although those who ate diets high in animal protein were not at a greater than average risk of dying, people who at more plant protein were at a substantially lower than average risk of death. As processed and red meats are thought to be the most unhealthy, the research team then analyzed how people’s death risks might shift if they switched from animal to plant proteins.
Switching from either red or processed meats to vegetable, fruit and grain proteins was linked to lower risks of dying from cancer, specifically, as well as death from any cause. Moving away from red meat proteins stemmed people’s risks if dying from heart disease, too, in addition to reducing overall and cancer-related mortality.
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