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Exercise Cuts Men's Heart Death Risk

No matter what their cholesterol level, men who are

physically fit cut their risk of dying from heart disease

by 50 percent, a new Canadian study finds.

"We should be promoting physical activity at all levels

of risk," said lead researcher Peter T. Katzmarzyk, an

associate professor in the School of Physical and

Health Education at Queens University, in Kingston,


The main objective of the study was to assess

changes to guidelines from the National Cholesterol

Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III (ATP).

The guidelines are aimed at lowering LDL "bad"

cholesterol and predicting risk for cardiovascular


The report appears in the Aug. 30 online issue of


"The guidelines that lay out targets for [HDL] 'good'

cholesterol levels appear to work very well for

predicting those who are at risk of dying prematurely

from cardiovascular disease," Katzmarzyk noted.

In their study, Katzmarzyk's team collected data on

more than 19,000 men, aged 20 to 79 years old, who

attended a preventive medical clinic between 1979

and 1995.

Using the new ATP III classifications, 58 percent of

the men would have met the criteria for being "at or

below LDL cholesterol goal;" 18 percent would have

been labeled as needing "therapeutic lifestyle change"

to lower LDL; while 24 percent would have met the

criteria for "drug consideration" for lowering LDL.

During more than 10 years of follow-up, 179 of the

men in the study died from cardiovascular disease.

Compared with men who met the acceptable LDL

levels, men who required changes in diet and exercise

were at twice the risk of cardiovascular death, while

men who needed aggressive cholesterol-lowering drug

therapy were at almost seven times the risk, the

researchers report.

In addition, the researchers found that one-third of

the men in the highest cholesterol group also had

signs of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome

means having three or more of the following

cardiovascular risk factors: abdominal obesity, high

levels of blood fats called triglycerides, low HDL

cholesterol, high blood pressure or high blood glucose.

Metabolic syndrome, even without high LDL

cholesterol, doubles the risk of death from

cardiovascular disease.

According to Katzmarzyk, 25 percent of Americans

aged 20 to 79 need aggressive lipid-lowering therapy.

"These new guidelines will definitely save lives if they

are implemented," he said.

An exciting finding was that men who were physically

active had a significantly reduced risk of dying from

cardiovascular disease regardless of their cholesterol

level. "Men who were physically active had a 50

percent reduction in risk," Katzmarzyk said.

The reason physical fitness reduces cardiovascular risk

is that all of the risk factors that makeup metabolic

syndrome are sensitive to exercise, said study co-

author Dr. Timothy S. Church, medical director at The

Cooper Institute, in Dallas.

"It shouldn't be called metabolic syndrome," Church

said. "It should be called physical inactivity


Church believes that exercise can dramatically reduce

the growing epidemic of metabolic syndrome in the

U.S. "If you want to prevent developing metabolic

syndrome, lead a physically active life," he said.

"Being physical active only takes 30 minutes a day,

five days a week -- incorporate physical activity into

your life."

One expert wasn't surprised by the findings.

"It's telling you that patients with risk factors are at

higher risk," said Dr. Harlan M. Krumholz, a professor

of cardiology at Yale University Medical School. "It

kind of makes sense that if you have some of these

risk factors, you are at high risk."

August 29, 2005

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter