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Fitness in young adulthood protects heart health in middle age

Fitness in early adulthood greatly reduces the likelihood of developing high blood pressure and diabetes both major risk factors for heart disease and stroke in middle age, a new study has found.

Reporting in the Dec. 17 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, Northwestern University researcher Mercedes Carnethon and colleagues found that fitness also decreases risk for metabolic syndrome, a collection of factors that includes excess abdominal fat, elevated blood pressure and levels of triglycerides and low levels of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" cholesterol.

Improving fitness greatly reduces by as much as 50 percent risk for diabetes and metabolic syndrome, said lead author Carnethon, assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University.

"If all the young adults in our study had been fit, there would have been nearly a third fewer cases of high blood pressure, diabetes and metabolic syndrome," Carnethon said.

"Given the epidemic of obesity in the United States and the decline in people's physical activity, it's important that Americans take steps to improve their physical fitness," she said.

Heart disease and stroke are the first and third leading causes of death for Americans. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, nearly 13 million Americans have heart disease and nearly 5 million have had a stroke.

The research is the first, large observational study to assess the role of fitness on healthy young adults developing risk factors for heart disease. Data were derived from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study from 1985 to 2001.

Over 4,400 men and women aged 18 to 30 participated in the study and were followed up for 15 years, but about 2,500 had their cardiopulmonary fitness retested after seven years to measure changes in fitness.

Fitness was measured with an exercise treadmill test, whi
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Contact: Elizabeth Crown
e-crown@northwestern.edu
312-503-8928
Northwestern University
16-Dec-2003


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