Young and Middle-Aged Women LDL Cholesterol Level Might be Lowered by Exercise
Approximately 250,000 American women will die from a heart attack this year. Yet only a handful of women believe that heart attack and stroke are their greatest health threat.In fact, heart disease kills more women each year than the next 14 causes of death combined.
Women are less likely to survive heart attacks than men. No one knows why. It may be that women don't seek or receive treatment as soon as men. Or it may be because women's smaller hearts and blood vessels are more easily damaged. Doctors are working on finding answers to these questions. There's no question, however, that it makes sense to prevent heart problems before they start.
A study funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research found that women experience undiagnosed warning signs weeks, months, and even years before having a heart attack.
"We're finding that, on average, most women experience warning signs 4 to 6 months prior to their heart attack," says study investigator Jean McSweeney, a professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.Women coming into the hospital for a heart attack have a higher death rate and higher risk of complications. A premenopausal woman having a heart attack has twice the death rate of a similarly aged man.Women absolutely need to become more aware of their risk for heart disease.
In conditions with elevated concentrations of oxidized LDL particles, especially small LDL particles, cholesterol promotes atheroma formation in the walls of arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis, which is the principal cause of coronary heart disease and other forms of cardiovascular disease. In contrast, HDL particles (especially large HDL) have been the only identified mechanism by which cholesterol can be removed from atheroma. Increased concentrations of HDL correlate with lower rates of atheroma progressions and even regression.
When doctors talk to their patients about the health concerns of cholesterol, they are often referring to "bad cholesterol", or low-density lipoprotein (LDL). "Good cholesterol" is high-density lipoprotein (HDL); this denotes the way cholesterol is bound in lipoproteins, the natural carrier molecules of the body.If you don't know your cholesterol level, ask your doctor to check it. Diet is a key part of lowering high cholesterol levels. However, some people may need to take medicine in addition to diet and exercise.
Lifestyle changes are the first line of defense against high cholesterol. To promote healthy cholesterol levels, lose excess weight, eat healthy foods and increase your physical activity. If you smoke, quit.
Even moderate forms of exercise like brisk walking may be enough to improve a woman's cholesterol levels, according to a new study.
Regular exercise can help improve your cholesterol levels. With your doctor's OK, work up to 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day. Take a brisk daily walk. Ride your bike. Swim laps. To maintain your motivation, keep it fun. Find an exercise buddy or join an exercise group.
The findings, reported in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, may come as good news to those who don't relish a grueling workout. Researchers found that young and middle-aged women who favored moderate-intensity exercise, such as walking, had lower levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol and higher levels of heart-healthy HDL cholesterol than their sedentary peers.
Women who worked out more vigorously, through activities like jogging, tended to have the greatest cardiovascular endurance of all study participants.
They did not, however, show the cholesterol benefit that moderate exercisers did.
It's not clear why this was the case, according to the researchers. But what the findings do suggest, they say, is that women need not work out too hard to win some health benefits.
"I would say that it's not necessary to practice high-intensity physical activity to improve (cholesterol) profile," said study co-author Dr. Roberto Elosua, a researcher at the Institut Municipal d'Investigació Mèdica in Barcelona, Spain.
"Doing moderate-intensity physical activity is enough to obtain these type of benefits," he told Reuters Health.
For their study, Elosua and his colleagues assessed exercise habits, cholesterol levels and fitness levels among 403 premenopausal women. They found that the more calories a woman burned through moderate exercise, the lower her LDL cholesterol and the higher her HDL levels.
On the other hand, only regular vigorous exercise appeared to improve women's fitness levels, as measured by a treadmill test.
As for why these women didn't show better cholesterol levels than their sedentary peers, it might be a matter of numbers, according to Elosua. That is, few women in the study actually worked out at a high intensity, and the small number may have made it hard, in statistical analysis, to detect an effect on cholesterol.