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Chiropractic Research Review

Coronary Heart Disease and Physical Activity in Women

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women in the United States. A decrease in physical activity is one of the risk factors for this disease. Women who are physically active have been shown to have lower coronary heart disease (CHD) rates than inactive women.

However, it is uncertain as to whether the association differs by intensity of activity or in women at high risk for CHD. This study examines the relationship between CHD and physical activity in women, specifically related to light-to-moderate walking activity and varying pace. A group of 39,372 healthy female health professionals aged 45 years or older enrolled throughout the United States for a three-year period, with a four-year follow-up period. Recreational activities, such as walking and stair climbing, were reported at study entry. Correlation of CHD with energy expended on all activities, vigorous activities, and walking, was measured.

The study participants were observed for an average of 5 years and within that time 244 confirmed incidents of CHD occurred. The findings of this study showed that:

* Active women had a lower body mass index than inactive women.

* Active women showed healthier behavior patterns (e.g., lass likely to smoke, consumed a healthier diet).

* Women with higher levels of activity were less likely to have hypertension, diabetes mellitus and elevated cholesterol.

* Active women were less likely to develop CHD.

* Women who walked at least one hour per week at a 'usual' pace experienced half the CHD risk of women who did not walk regularly.

* Walking pace or intensity was not considered as important as the amount of walking per week (i.e. walk at least 1 hour per week at a light to moderate pace produced protective effects).

Conclusion: This study shows that light-to-moderate activity may be associated with lower CHD rates in women. At least one hour of walking per week predicted lower risk. These findings also held true even for those patients who were overweight, had increased cholesterol levels, or were smokers.

Lee IM, Rexrode KM, Cook NR, et al. Physical activity and coronary heart disease in women. The Journal of the American Medical Association 2001:285(11), pp. 1447-1453.

Chiropractic Research Review

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