Research Study: Higher Muscle Mass Linked to Lower Heart Disease Risk

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Do you have cardiovascular disease as part of your family history? Do you want to prevent heart disease, which is known as one of the most common mortality factors?

A new research study[1] shows that the more muscle mass a person has upon entering middle age, the lower their risk of cardiovascular disease as they grow older.

Men with more muscle mass as they enter middle age tend to fare better against heart disease.

What was the Goal of the Research Study?

An international group of researchers published their paper in the January issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health with the goal of assessing the relationship between skeletal muscle mass and cardiovascular disease incidence over a 10-year span of time.

The study was conducted on adults who were 45 years and older and were free of cardiovascular disease. Essentially, the researchers were attempting to prove that preserving skeletal muscle mass would lead to better cardiovascular health.

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Muscle mass isn’t just for aesthetics.

What were the Research Methods of the Study?

This study was population-based and followed 3,042 adults without pre-existing cardiovascular disease within the general population in Greece. Within this population, there were 1,514 Caucasian men who were 18 years old and older. In the 10-year follow-up, the fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular disease incidence was investigated in the participants.

The follow-up included 1,019 participants who were 45 years old and older with 534 men and 485 women. The participants were asked about their demographic details, personal history and family history of cardiometabolic disease, and data about their lifestyle habits such as dietary factors.

Morning fasting blood samples were taken from all the participants after fasting overnight for 10 to 12 hours. The researchers looked at triglyceride, total cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels.

The study authors developed a skeletal muscle mass index to study the skeletal muscle mass. Appendicular skeletal muscle mass standardized by body mass index was used to create this index.

The body mass index was calculated by using body weight, height, waist circumference, and hip circumference. Indirect population formulas were utilized when calculating appendicular skeletal muscle mass and skeletal muscle mass index.

At the 10-year follow-up, there were no differences seen between age and gender when compared to the entire population of participants. At the same time, accurate data about cardiovascular disease was obtained from 2,020 participants of which 1,019 were aged 45 years and older.

The New York Times reported that the researchers used data from the participants’ first medical tests when calculating each patient’s skeletal muscle mass and then checked whether each participant had developed cardiovascular disease 10 years later at their second clinic visit.

What were the Results and Conclusions of the Findings?

The results show that the 10-year cardiovascular disease incidence grew significantly when the skeletal muscle mass decreased. Skeletal muscle mass that remained at the same levels across 10 years showed an inverse association of cardiovascular disease incidence.

Another excellent result from this research study shows that men entering middle age with a good amount of muscle mass had an 81 percent lower risk for heart disease when compared to the risk of other men with lower muscle mass.

Among all participants, nearly 27 percent had developed heart disease with the incidence six times higher in men than women. The patients’ muscle mass at the beginning of the study were associated with their risk of heart disease during the follow-up. Those with the most amount of skeletal muscle mass had the lowest risk of heart disease.

Recommendations for Fitness Trainees Based on the Research

This research shows that adults, especially those who are middle-aged, should work on strengthening and increasing their muscle mass. Strength training exercises are key including using weights or weight machines in the gym.

Cardio activity as well as performing lunges or squats can help you grow muscle mass as well. You will also need to alternate the muscle groups you work on every day. Otherwise, you could end up with a pulled muscle.

This research study shows how men and women could reduce their risk of heart disease in their later years by incorporating strength training exercises and increasing their muscle mass.

A functional trainer or cable machine can be used for multiplanar movements - work muscles and movements from any angle.
Enter middle age with more muscle mass and you will be less likely to suffer from heart disease – a new study shows.


1. “Skeletal muscle mass in relation to 10 year cardiovascular disease incidence among middle aged and older adults: the ATTICA study”

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