What you eat or don’t eat can have long-term effects on your health. In a study published in the journal Aging Cell, researchers discovered that those who follow a calorie-restricted diet tend to have healthier hearts. In fact, lowering your calorie count daily may make your heart seem like it's 20 years younger.

For the study, researchers recruited 22 participants with an average age of 51, all of whom practiced calorie restriction (CR). That is, despite eating a healthy diet, their calorie intake daily was 30 percent lower than normal. The researchers compared them to a control group of 20 people who ate a Western-style diet. The participants were hooked up to portable calorie monitors that would track their heart rates. From the results, it appeared that those who practiced CR had lower heart rates. They also had higher heart rate variability, which is the ability of the heart to adapt to various changes in activities.

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Heart function naturally slows down with age, but in this study, researchers found that the CR participants had hearts that looked and performed years younger than their real age. Whether having such healthy hearts could also lead to having longer lives or not, however, remains to be seen.

So the next time you feel like eating more than your usual share of food, think of your cardiovascular health and consider laying off those extra calories.

(Photo by Maria Pontikis via Flickr Creative Commons)

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