Harvard Health Letter

Counting calories to keep your heart young

New research finds it effective, but is it safe?

What's the secret to staying young at heart? A new study published in the journal Aging Cell found that restricting your calorie intake may keep your heart acting like one that's 20 years younger. "Restriction of calories leads to weight loss over time. Weight loss is associated with several well-known medical benefits, such as reduced risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol—all risk factors for the development of heart disease," explains Dr. Deepak Bhatt, an interventional cardiologist and associate professor at Harvard Medical School.

The study focused on just one aspect of heart health, albeit an important one—heart rate variability, which is a measure of how the heart responds to changing needs. A healthy heart has much greater variability than a poorly functioning heart. For example, a person whose heart rate climbs with physical exertion, but drops quickly back to a normal rate once the activity stops, would be said to have a healthier or "younger" heart.

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