Loss of muscle strength is a natural part of the aging process. Older people become frail for many reasons — hormonal changes, low activity, chronic illness, or poor nutrition can all contribute.

They can also contribute to heart disease, which may explain why older adults with bigger biceps are more likely to survive, according to a study in the American Journal of Cardiology.

Dr. Kentaro Kamiya and colleagues at Kitasato University Hospital in Japan measured distances around the mid-upper arms (bicep) and calf muscles of 599 people over 65 with cardiovascular disease.

After a median follow-up of 1.6 years, 72 patients died — but patients with larger upper-arms had lower rates of death.

Larger calf sizes were also correlated with better outcomes, but only the bicep measurement “significantly” predicted the odds of surviving heart disease, researchers said.

Dr. Kamiya concluded that bicep measurements “could be a readily available and simple metric” for determining risks in older people with heart disease.

One of the best ways to prevent age-related muscle loss is to exercise every day. Walking is useful to improve heart fitness, balance, and strength. Eating a healthy diet with enough protein is also important.

Source: Kamiya K, Masuda T, Matsue Y, et al. Prognostic Usefulness of Arm and Calf Circumference in Patients ≥65 Years of Age With Cardiovascular Disease. The American Journal of Cardiology. 2016.

Posted by Elizabeth Bradley

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