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The Takeaway: Fitness Outweighs Body Weight; Airport Security Screenings Raise Concerns

Fat and Fit? A new study published in  Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association says that when it comes to men's health, fitness outweighs weight. The study of 14,000 middle-aged men found a man's fitness level was more important to his overall health and longevity than how much he weighed.

See also: Those Extra 10 Pounds May Be Good for You.

We all tend to assume that it's weight loss and obesity and seeing a change in pounds that is having the true effect on overall cardiovascular disease and, ultimately, mortality," said Dr. Tara Narula, a cardiologist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

But that's not necessarily true. Researchers followed subjects for 11 years. Those who maintained their fitness level over that time period reduced their odds of dying from cardiovascular disease by 30 percent, even if they failed to lose any excess weight. Those who improved their fitness level slashed their risk by about 40 percent. The men whose fitness level declined over this time, however, had a higher risk of dying. Body-mass index, the measurement associated with determining whether someone is classified as overweight or obese, was not associated with mortality.

People need to [think] more about their fitness, and not just their fitness but trying to improve or maintain their fitness rather than focusing too much on weight loss or worrying too much about weight gain," study author Duck-chul Lee said.

One limitation of Lee's research, however: All of the study subjects were of normal weight or overweight to begin with; results could differ with obese patients, the researchers say. 

Aging and Airport Security:  Complaints about airport security screenings by two 80-something women are raising questions about how to screen older adults and people with medical devices without causing embarrassment.  Ruth Sherman, 88, said she was mortified when Transportation Security Administration inspectors pulled her aside at New York's Kennedy Airport to ask about the bulge in her pants-a bulge formed by Sherman's colostomy bag.

I said, 'I have a bag here,'" she said on Monday, pointing to the bulge, which is bigger or smaller depending on what she eats. "They didn't understand."

Sherman was escorted to another room, where agents made her pull down her pants. The next day, Lenore Zimmerman, 85,  decided against going through a scanning machine because of her heart defibrillator. She was escorted into a private room where said she had to raise her blouse and lower her pants and underwear so a female TSA agent could inspect her back brace. Her son said agents should've just patted her down.

The complaints, which the TSA is still investigating, have put the issue of how airport security officials should deal with older passengers back into the news. As the Associated Press puts it: "With age come such things as catheters, colostomy bags and adult diapers. Now add another indignity to getting old - having to drop your pants and show these things to a complete stranger."

But the TSA notes that "terrorists and their targets may also range in age," and security comes first. TSA chief John Pistole told a Senate committee last month that agents are being trained to more quickly identify medical devices such as catheters and colostomy bags. "We are looking at ways that we can recognize those of a certain age ... I don't want terrorists to game the system - but of a certain age that would be given an expedited screening," Pistole said.

Tuesday Quick Hits: 

  • Rev. Al Sharpton talks about his fitness routine. Sharpton, 57, weighed more than 300 pounds in the 1980s and '90s; now he's down to 176 pounds and exercises seven days a week.
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