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Fitness Associated with Decreased Inflammation, Improved Heart Health


A recent study has provided more insight into the relationship between fitness and heart attack.

There’s a substance in the blood called C-reactive protein (CRP). Elevated levels of CRP can indicate the presence of inflammation, which is associated with increased risk of heart attack—a 2- to5-times greater risk, in fact. A recent study in the journal Circulation compared the CRP levels of women in three ethnic groups—Native American, African American and Caucasian—to their levels of fitness.

Among the Native American and Caucasian women, those who were most physically fit had the lowest levels of CRP. The connection between CRP levels and fitness was not as strong for African American women.

The researchers determined fitness levels by testing the women on a treadmill and grouping them into categories of low, moderate and high fitness. Women with low fitness levels had significantly higher levels of CRP than those in the moderate and high categories. Women with a higher body mass (BMI), a measurement of body fat, also had higher levels of CRP. And women whose waists measured more than 35 inches had higher CRP levels as well.

The study looked at a relatively small number of women, so the results are considered preliminary. But they do provide some insight into the link between physical fitness and heart attack, and they indicate that people with elevated CRP levels should talk with their doctors about beginning an exercise program. The study points to the need for more large-scale research on CRP levels, physical fitness and the connection between CRP and heart attack.

Circulation, (rapid access issue) 24 June 2002.
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