Washington: Researchers have suggested that for otherwise healthy middle-aged women who are overweight or obese, physical activity may be their best option for avoiding heart disease.
These findings were reported in a paper led by authors at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center, the University Hospital for Einstein.
Lead author Unab Khan, M.B.B.S.,M.S., assistant professor of pediatrics and of family and social medicine at Einstein and attending physician, pediatrics at Montefiore, said being overweight or obese increases a person's risk for developing conditions such as hypertension, elevated triglyceride levels and elevated fasting glucose levels-all of them risk factors for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the US.
The authors identified 866 overweight and obese women, aged 42 to 52 who were enrolled in the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation/, or SWAN, a multicenter, multiethnic study designed to examine the health of women during their middle years.
The women studied were categorized as "metabolically benign overweight/obese."
Throughout the seven-year study, the women were tested annually for heart disease risk factors. They also completed an annual survey describing their physical activity for the prior 12 months, which ranged from active living, caregiving and doing household chores to exercise and sports.
During the seven years, 373 of the participants-43 percent of the total-had progressed from having at most a single risk factor for heart disease (i.e., metabolically benign overweight/obese) to at-risk overweight/obese, meaning they had developed two or more of the following five heart-disease risk factors: hypertension; low blood level of HDL ("good") cholesterol; elevated blood levels of triglycerides, elevated fasting glucose level (indicating pre-diabetes or diabetes); and elevated levels of C-reactive protein ( indicating inflammation).
Low-to-moderate physical activity-at the start of the study and during it-was the only lifestyle factor found to protect overweight/obese women from becoming at-risk for heart disease. More specifically, women who participated in physical activity during the study were 16 percent less likely to become at-risk for heart disease compared with women who were not physically active.
The study has been published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.