At age 60 you can have the heart output of a 20-year-old, if you’re prepared to go the extra mile

By the time you reach your 60th birthday, your heart could still be out performing the hearts of inactive 20-year-old whippersnappers, according to a study on cardiac output in healthy men carried out by Paul Chantler and his team from Liverpool John Moores Hospital. Unfortunately, you will have to be prepared to run nearly 30 miles a week for the 20 years preceding the celebration to achieve this.

The study’s findings, to be presented at this year’s Physiological Society conference on Friday 19th December, also shed light on the impact that age and activeness have on the cardiac output of heart attack victims.

The researchers looked at cardiac power output – the amount of pressure and flow the heart generates – in men ranging in age from 20 to 70-years-old. The men were all healthy but did not take regular exercise, bar one group known as ‘veteran athletes’ comprising of 50 and 60 year old subjects who had all exercised at high levels for the best part of thirty years.

“There is a steady decline in cardiac performance as the subjects get older, with the oldest age group experiencing as much as a 20% drop in pumping performance compared to the original 20-year-old-group,” said Paul. “But the veteran athletes, aged 50 to 60 years, predominantly had cardiac performance at least equivalent to if not greater than the 20 year old inactive group.”

The findings point to exercise ameliorating the effect of ageing on the heart, although the exact cause of the benefit is not known. “As the heart ages it loses contractile cells, but the loss is slightly offset by the cells that remain becoming larger and more efficient,” explained Paul. “The question is: does exercise decrease the number of cells lost, or improve the efficiency of those larger cells?”

The study also highlighted the sharp drop in output resulting from heart problems. Heart patients classed at NYHA level 3 – patients that are comfortable at rest but during exercise suffer the onset of fatigue and angina very rapidly – suffered a massive 72% drop in pumping performance compared to healthy patients of the same age. “Obviously with heart attack victims power output from the heart drops,” said Paul. “What our study shows is that ageing and inactivity also have a detrimental effect. You’’re left with a vicious circle; heart problems lead to a drop in power output, which leads to a less active lifestyle, leading in turn to a further drop in power output.”

For the first time, researchers were able look at the effects age and activity exert on the heart independently from the effects caused by heart problems. “By looking at both the amount of flow and pressure the heart generates, we separated the effects of age and disease. This allowed us to look at what the exact effect disease factors have on the heart,” explained Paul.

What the researchers hope to discover is whether heart function can be adapted and improved at a later age. “We are about to start a 12 month training programme involving both men and women,” stated Paul. “We want to see if improvements can be achieved, and what level of training is needed to achieve those improvements.”

Media Contact

Maggie Leggett alfa

Further information:

All news from this category: Studies and Analyses

innovations-report maintains a wealth of in-depth studies and analyses from a variety of subject areas including business and finance, medicine and pharmacology, ecology and the environment, energy, communications and media, transportation, work, family and leisure.

Back to the Homepage

Comments (0)

Write comment

Latest posts

Acute itching in eczema patients linked to environmental allergens

Newly identified pathway explains why antihistamine drugs often don’t work to control severe itch. In addition to a skin rash, many eczema sufferers also experience chronic itching, but sometimes that…

Simulating evolution to understand a hidden switch

Computer simulations of cells evolving over tens of thousands of generations reveal why some organisms retain a disused switch mechanism that turns on under severe stress, changing some of their…

How cells move and don’t get stuck

Cell velocity, or how fast a cell moves, is known to depend on how sticky the surface is beneath it, but the precise mechanisms of this relationship have remained elusive…

Partners & Sponsors

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.