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Young adult fitness protects heart health in middle age

Cardiorespiratory fitness in early adulthood significantly decreases the chance of developing high blood pressure and diabetes -- both major risk factors for heart disease and stroke -- in middle age, according to a new study supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health. Fitness also reduces the risk for the metabolic syndrome, a constellation of factors that includes excess abdominal fat, elevated blood pressure and triglycerides, and low levels of the high-density lipoprotein, the "good" cholesterol.

Further, improving fitness in healthy young adults can cut by as much as 50 percent the risk for diabetes and the metabolic syndrome. The research is the first, large observational study to look at the role of fitness on healthy young adults' development of risk factors for heart disease. Prior studies had examined the relationship between fitness and death from heart disease and stroke.

Its findings appear in the December 17, 2003, issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association. The study was done by researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago, Nemours Cardiac Center in Wilmington, DE, the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, CA, the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis, MN, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

"This study underscores the importance of both fitness and maintaining a healthy weight in the fight against heart disease and stroke and their risk factors," said NHLBI Acting Director Dr. Barbara Alving. "Americans need to become physically active early in life and continue to be active as they age in order to remain as healthy as possible."

"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," cautioned Dr. Mercedes Carnethon, Department of Preventive Medicine at Northw
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Contact: NHLBI Communications Office
nhlbinews@nhlbi.nih.gov
301-496-4236
NIH/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
16-Dec-2003


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