As we get older, our risk of cardiovascular problems increases, particularly in the form of endothelial function and microvascular
strength and integrity. Part of the story is age, while another part might be related to diet, exercise, and other lifestyle choices.
One recent study out of the UK examined whether or not this decline in endothelial function and microvascular integrity could be reversed when combining exercise and the Mediterranean diet for a total of 8 weeks. This study followed up with participants after one year, to determine if this improvement in cardiac function remained, or if when transitioning back to their pre-study diets their risk for declining endothelial and microvascular health once again increased to their pre-study levels.
This study measured various outcomes related to endothelial function and microvascular integrity on 20 individuals aged 55 and older. In the original study, half the participants participated in a specific exercise regime, while the other half was put on a specific Mediterranean diet plan and did the same exercise regime as the first group, all for 8 weeks.
One year later, the same outcomes related to endothelial function and microvascular integrity were measured on these 20 individuals.
- Both exercise and exercise & Mediterranean diet groups showed improvements and were maintained in endothelial and microvascular outcomes compared with baseline (i.e. prior to study intervention).
- Those in the exercise & Mediterranean diet group showed a significantly higher improvement in endothelial function and microvascular integrity compared with the exercise group.
- Cardiorespiratory outcome improvements were also maintained after a one year period.
This study confirms that exercising is good for long term improved endothelial function and microvascular integrity in older adults.
Additionally, it also provides strong evidence that adding the Mediterranean diet in combination with a regular exercise regime improves these cardiovascular outcomes even further in healthy older adults at risk for declining cardiovascular health.
Klonizakis, M., Alkhatib, A., and Middleton, G. 2014. Long-term effects of an exercise and Mediterranean diet intervention in vascular function of an older, health population. Microvascular Research 95: 103-107.