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
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
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
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
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