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Women must develop healthy lifestyles well before menopause to avoid heart disease in later years

University of Pittsburgh researcher presents findings at American Heart Association meeting

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 13 Women must exercise and watch their diets before menopause to prevent life-threatening coronary calcium deposits from developing after menopause, according to research presented by University of Pittsburgh researcher Lewis H. Kuller, M.D., Dr. P.H., at the 73rd Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association in New Orleans.

These findings grew out of the Womens Healthy Lifestyle Project, a five-year, randomized clinical trial testing the efficacy of a behavioral lifestyle intervention program of exercise and low-fat diet in preventing increases in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the so-called bad cholesterol) and weight gain during the peri- to post-menopausal period.

Women cannot afford to wait until middle age to begin a healthy lifestyle. They need to control poor diet, lack of exercise, obesity and high blood pressure while they are still young, said Dr. Kuller, principal investigator, and chairman of the department of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburghs Graduate School of Public Health. By middle age, the damage from an unhealthy lifestyle could already be done.

Researchers found that pre-menopausal levels of LDL cholesterol as measured at the beginning of the lifestyle intervention were predictive of post-menopausal coronary artery calcium deposits as measured after the study. Also predictive of post-menopausal calcium deposits were higher pre-menopausal degrees of other cardiovascular disease risk factors such as triglyceride levels, waist circumference, body-mass index and blood pressure.

This is the first study to use electron beam computed tomography (EBCT) to evaluate the relationship between risk factors measured pre-menopausal and the extent of coronary calcium early in menopause, said Dr. Kuller.

The study included 535 pre-menopausal women who were randomly assigne
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Contact: Kathryn Duda
dudak@msx.upmc.edu
412-624-2607
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
12-Nov-2000


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