Heart Disease Not Always Death Sentence

It's reversible in young female athletes, study finds

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WEDNESDAY, July 9, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Early heart disease is reversible in young female athletes who stop menstruating because of excessive exercise and poor diet.

That's the finding of a new study from the Medical College of Wisconsin.

When hormone replacements or dietary changes prompted the women to resume their periods, early signs of heart disease were reversed in the women, average age 23, who took part in the study.

A previous study found these same women had early signs of heart disease, as measured by vascular function. In this latest study, the women showed a sixfold increase in dilation of their arteries.

"What was especially gratifying was that these young athletes not only improved their menstrual status and gained weight, but they also improved their 5K race times by an average of 45 seconds. This is a win-win situation," researcher Dr. Anne Z. Hoch says in a statement.

The findings were presented at the recent annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine.

In an earlier study, Hoch found the combination of extreme exercise and poor nutrition in young female athletes can lead to early heart disease and osteoporosis.

"We have a pediatric population that is being set up for geriatric disease. If you look at these young women, they have the same hormonal profile as women at menopause. It is well known that the biggest consequence of menopause is the cardiovascular complications," Hoch says.

The combination of disordered eating, loss of period, and osteoporosis is called Female Athlete Triad.

In a survey, Hoch found many doctors, athletic trainers, coaches and physical therapists are not aware of the problem and don't know how to treat it.

She says women who exercise for an hour or more a day need to consume about 45 calories per kilogram of body weight. For example, a 60-kilogram woman exercising at that rate should consume 2,700 calories per day. Those calories should include 60 percent carbohydrates, 15 percent protein and 25 percent fats.

Adequate calcium intake is also essential to build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about Female Athlete Triad.

SOURCE: Medical College of Wisconsin, news release, June 2003

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