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Women's Risk of Cardiac Death During Exercise Small

Regular exercise reduces long-term risk

WEDNESDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- The risk of sudden cardiac death during exercise is extremely small in women, and regular exercise reduces the overall long-term risk, researchers report in the March 22/29 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Christine M. Albert, M.D., M.P.H, from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and colleagues examined data from the Nurses' Health Study, including 288 cases of sudden cardiac death among 84,888 women who responded to a 1980 questionnaire. They also looked at exercise and long-term risk of sudden cardiac death from 1986 to 2004 in 69,693 women without a history of coronary heart disease, stroke or cancer.

The absolute risk of sudden cardiac death was only 1 in 36.5 million hours of exercise. Although there was a transient risk of sudden cardiac death during moderate to vigorous exercise (relative risk 2.38), the risk was no longer elevated in women who exercised at least two hours per week. The long-term risk of sudden cardiac death with moderate to vigorous levels of exercise was lower in women who exercised at least four hours per week (RR 0.41).

"These prospective data suggest that sudden cardiac death during exertion is an extremely rare event in women," Albert and colleagues conclude. "Regular exercise may significantly minimize this small transient risk and may lower the overall long-term risk of sudden cardiac death."

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