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Exercise And C-Reactive Protein

In a study of nearly 3,000 adults, Harvard researchers found that those who got the most exercise had the lowest levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation that has been tied to the risk of artery disease, heart attack and stroke.

In fact, the same researchers recently found in a large study of women that CRP levels were better predictors of heart attack and other cardio-vascular problems than levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol were - although there's no agreement yet on whether people's CRP levels should be routinely checked.

These latest findings "have enormous public health implications," study author Dr. Michelle A. Albert reported. "Physical activity may attenuate inflammation and modify cardio-vascular risk without drug therapy," she said.

The study involved 2,833 men and women, 41 percent of whom had a history of coronary artery disease. Participants were divided into four groups based on exercise habits. The groups were :-

  • less than once a week;
  • once a week;
  • two or three times a week;
  • at least four times a week.

According to Albert, the typical CRP level declined with increasing exercise. And the relationship was seen in all sub-groups, including smokers, non-smokers and those with and without heart disease.

"There was a progressive drop in CRP levels with exercise, even after adjusting for smoking, lipid (cholesterol) levels and age," Albert said. But greater exercise-related drops in CRP were seen in men than in women, she noted.

The reason is unclear, but Albert speculated that women may engage in less intense exercise or may have a lower overall activity level than men.


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