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Study: 'Fit' More Important Than 'Fat' in Risk of Heart Disease

Posted - Sep. 13, 2004 at 9:07 a.m.



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Dr. Kim Mulvihill reporting In the battle to lose weight and reduce the risk of heart disease, many people are overlooking something even more important-- staying fit.

It's not quite time to throw out the scale.

But it is time to revisit that old equation "Calories in and calroies out," especially when it comes to protecting your heart.

Having a sedentary lifestyle or being overweight are both risk factors for heart disease.

But the relative impact of each alone is unclear.

Now a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association says it's fit, not fat, that matters most.

Researchers tracked 900 mostly overweight women who were being evaluated for possible heart disease. Over a period of four years, their body mass index didn't seem to make a difference.

However, 44 percent of the unfit women suffered some cardiac event. Compare that to 26 percent of women who were fit.

Dr. Timothy Wessel/ Researcher: "There are many currently popular ways to lose weight, including specific diets or surgeries. However, our study shows that the lack of physical fitness is a stronger risk factor for developing heart disease than being overweight or obese."

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to lose those extra pounds.

A second study in the same journal found women who were overweight had three times the risk of developing diabetes, as women who were normal weight.

Obesity led to a nine-fold increase in diabetes. And while the diabetes risk was reduced somewhat by being active, that benefit was not enough to offset the much bigger risk of being overweight or obese.

So what is the bottom line? Losing weight by exercising is probably better than diets or surgery alone.

Besides, when you execise, you generally lose weight.

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