Lifestyle Changes Help Older Women's Hearts After HRT

Exercise, better diet cuts cardiovascular risks, study finds

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WEDNESDAY, May 16, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Healthy eating and exercise helps ease cardiovascular disease risk in postmenopausal women who've stopped using hormone replacement therapy (HRT), a new U.S. study says.

It has been shown that HRT can reduce the likelihood of cardiovascular disease, but many women have stopped using HRT due to research that found it is associated with an increased chance of breast cancer and heart disease.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health looked at 240 women who were taking HRT at the start of the study: 134 of the women were put in a lifestyle change group, while the other 106 were put in a health education group. The women were followed for an average of 18 months. By the end of that time, 130 of the women had stopped HRT, while 110 were still on HRT.

Compared to the women in the health education group, those in the lifestyle change group showed significantly greater reductions in weight, body mass index, waist circumference, total cholesterol and LDL ("bad") cholesterol. The women in the lifestyle change group were also more physically active and had healthier fat intake.

Women in the health education group who stopped HRT had an average increase of more than 22 mg/dL in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, while those who stayed on HRT had average increases of less than 4 mg/dL. No such differences were noted in the lifestyle change group.

The study is published in the June issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

"These results have important public health implications and suggest that that a non-pharmacological lifestyle approach is both safe and effective for cardiovascular disease risk factor reduction in postmenopausal women, especially those who discontinued HRT use," study author Kelley K. Pettee said in a prepared statement.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about women and cardiovascular disease.

SOURCE: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, news release, May 15, 2007

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