Latest News & Research: 11 September 2018

This week: Exercise does not affect age of menopause • Weight loss and future health • How exercise protects against heart disease

Exercise does not affect age of menopause

The amount of physical activity that women undertake is not linked to their risk of early menopause, according to the largest study ever to investigate this question.

Until now, there have been conflicting findings about the relation between physical activity and menopause, with some studies suggesting that women who are very physically active may be at lower risk of a menopause before the age of 45, while others have found evidence of the opposite effect.

However, the study published in Human Reproduction analysed data from 107,275 women, who were followed prospectively from the time they joined the Nurses’ Health Study II in 1989 until 2011, and found no association between physical activity at any age and early natural menopause.

Dr Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson, Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Massachusetts, USA, who directed the research, said; ‘Our study provides considerable information in helping us understand the relationship between activity and timing of menopause; this is because of its size, its focus on early menopause specifically, and because of its prospective design, which limited the likelihood of bias and allowed us to look at physical activity at different time periods.’

‘Several previous well-designed studies have found suggestions that more physical activity is associated with older age at menopause, but even in those studies the size of the effect was very small. Our results, in conjunction with other studies, provides substantial evidence that physical activity is not importantly associated with early menopause.’

Source: European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology


Weight loss and future health

Weight loss during middle age likely has different effects on your health than does weight loss when you’re 65-years-old or older, a new study shows.

Although some studies have found that weight loss in older adults is generally linked to an increase in illness and death, researchers say that these studies were either too short or were based on information that may have been interpreted incorrectly.

However, one study about fractures and osteoporosis (a medical condition in which bones become thin, lose density, and become increasingly fragile) looked specifically at health and weight for women who were over age 65. Reviewing more than 20 years’ worth of data for study participants, the team of researchers responsible for this study had the chance to examine links between long-term weight gain/loss and health. Their findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The current study revealed that every 22 pounds of weight loss over 20 years was linked to a 23 percent increased risk of death and a 52 percent increased risk of hip fracture.

The team also said that women with moderate weight loss (20 or more pounds) over 20 years had a 74 percent increased risk of death. Their risk for hip fracture increased nearly three times, compared to women who had not lost weight. They were nearly four times more likely to have poor physical function after 20 years, compared to women with no weight loss.

Even women who had lost a small amount of weight (less than 20 pounds) over 20 years had an increased risk of death, but no increased risk of hip fracture or of poor physical function.

However, the researchers found no link between weight loss and chances for experiencing two or more falls during approximately 18 months of follow-up.

Weight variability and abrupt weight loss were not associated with poor health outcomes, such as falls, fractures, and death. However, those with the most weight variability over 20 years were two times more likely to have poor scores for measures of physical function.

‘Our findings suggest that weight loss may contribute to the process of health decline' said Dr. Erin LeBlanc, lead author of the study at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research, Portland, Oregon.

Source: Health in Ageing


How exercise protects against heart disease

A study by scientists from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute has examined what is happening to the lipids in the heart and circulating blood plasma during exercise compared to a failing heart as a novel way to advance prediction and treatment of heart failure.

This first-of-its-kind study has identified novel lipids in the heart and plasma in a model of exercise compared to heart disease, and found that some of these lipids have potential as new targets for predicting and treating heart failure and Atrial Fibrillation.

The study, published in Cell Reports, examined nearly 600 lipids in the heart and plasma of exercise-trained mice in comparison to mice with a failing heart.

Led by researcher, Dr Yow Keat Tham, and senior authors, Associate Professor Julie McMullen and Professor Peter Meikle, they say what is particularly exciting is the discovery of a number of novel lipids with unknown roles in the heart which may represent new biomarkers and/or drug targets for Atrial Fibrillation and heart failure.

‘Whilst many studies have described functional, structural and genetic differences of the exercise-trained heart and diseased heart in the quest to advance prevention and treatment, a mechanism largely unexplored is the regulation of lipids’ said Tham; ‘Recent advancements in technology however, have allowed for this large-scale profiling work which has opened up an unexplored pathway for the identification of novel biomarkers and drug targets for the failing heart.’

Source: Baker Heart & Diabetes Institute