Exercise, Classroom Instruction Cut Kids' Cholesterol, Study Finds

March 19, 1998

By DAVID WILLIAMSON
UNC-CH News Services

CHAPEL HILL -- Vigorous exercise and health education classes can cut adolescents' cholesterol levels and reduce their risk of developing heart disease later in life, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers, showed adolescents who participated in a health and physical education program designed by the scientists lowered total fat in their blood by an average of 7 percent. Subjects' LDL, or so-called "bad" cholesterol, dropped by 10 percent during the program.

Children who participated in either the exercise or the classroom instruction arms of the program also showed drops in cholesterol, but not as much, said Dr. Joanne S. Harrell, professor of nursing and principal investigator. HDL, or "good" cholesterol, increased slightly among the children.

"I don't think most parents realize how little actual physical activity their children get at school nowadays," Harrell said. "Most middle-aged and older people in this country were far more active when they were children than kids are now. Our study was to see if we could make a difference in one of the major risk factors for heart disease."

The professor reported her team's results at a news conference today (March 19) at an American Heart Association meeting in Santa Fe, N.M.

Other investigators, including schools of medicine, nursing and public health faculty, were Dr. Robert G. McMurray, professor of physical education; Dr. Shrikant Bangdiwala, research associate professor of biostatistics; Dr. Amy Levine, assistant professor of pediatrics; Shibing Deng, a biostatistician in nursing; and project director Chyrise B. Bradley, research assistant professor of nursing.

The study is part of the larger continuing Cardiovascular Health in Children study, a unique effort in North Carolina to learn about improving children's -- and later adults' -- heart and lung health. Six hundred middle-school students, ages 11 to 14, from five rural N.C. schools in three counties participated in the evaluation announced today.

Subjects were divided into four groups. During the 1995-96 school year they received both physical activity and classroom training, either one or the other "intervention" or neither.

Physical activity was vigorous and sustained three times a week but did not require special sports skills. Classroom teaching focused on nutrition, fitness, not smoking, blood pressure and other topics.

Researchers measured fat levels in the blood of children before and after completing the program. Among middle-schoolers in the combined group, total cholesterol dropped an average of 10.6 milligrams per deciliter and LDL dropped 8.7 milligrams per deciliter.

"We conclude that the combination of both a knowledge and attitude program and a physical activity program was highly effective in improving lipid (fat in the blood) profiles in this group of adolescents," Harrell said. "Our work is important because the few studies that have been done before on this looked at younger children, and none has tested older children the way we did."

"We strongly believe that if such programs were adopted statewide, in the future we would see a reduction of heart disease in North Carolina."

The UNC-CH study showed a larger drop in blood fats than previous work, she said, possibly because physical activity among middle-schoolers tested was more sustained and vigorous.

Participating schools were located in Brunswick, Harnett and Warren counties. Researchers chose those counties because rural children tend to be at greater risk of heart disease later in life than urban or suburban children. A third of those studied were overweight.

"There is a lot of pressure on school systems to have their children perform well on tests, but the old adage about healthy minds and healthy bodies going together still applies," Harrell said.

Note: Harrell can be reached through the meeting press room at (505) 982-6615 or 982-8816 in Santa Fe today and at her office, (919) 966-4284, after the meeting.

Bradley can be reached at (919) 966-3610.
School of Nursing Contact: Renee Kinzie, (919) 966-1412.
News Services Contact: David Williamson, (919) 962-8596.
-end-


University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Related Heart Disease Articles from Brightsurf:

Cellular pathway of genetic heart disease similar to neurodegenerative disease
Research on a genetic heart disease has uncovered a new and unexpected mechanism for heart failure.

Mechanism linking gum disease to heart disease, other inflammatory conditions discovered
The link between periodontal (gum) disease and other inflammatory conditions such as heart disease and diabetes has long been established, but the mechanism behind that association has, until now, remained a mystery.

New 'atlas' of human heart cells first step toward precision treatments for heart disease
Scientists have for the first time documented all of the different cell types and genes expressed in the healthy human heart, in research published in the journal Nature.

With a heavy heart: How men and women develop heart disease differently
A new study by researchers from McGill University has uncovered that minerals causing aortic heart valve blockage in men and women are different, a discovery that could change how heart disease is diagnosed and treated.

Heart-healthy diets are naturally low in dietary cholesterol and can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
Eating a heart-healthy dietary pattern rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, vegetable oils and nuts, which is also limits salt, red and processed meats, refined-carbohydrates and added sugars, is relatively low in dietary cholesterol and supports healthy levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.

Pacemakers can improve heart function in patients with chemotherapy-induced heart disease
Research has shown that treating chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy with commercially available cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) delivered through a surgically implanted defibrillator or pacemaker can significantly improve patient outcomes.

Arsenic in drinking water may change heart structure raising risk of heart disease
Drinking water that is contaminated with arsenic may lead to thickening of the heart's main pumping chamber in young adults, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

New health calculator can help predict heart disease risk, estimate heart age
A new online health calculator can help people determine their risk of heart disease, as well as their heart age, accounting for sociodemographic factors such as ethnicity, sense of belonging and education, as well as health status and lifestyle behaviors.

Wide variation in rate of death between VA hospitals for patients with heart disease, heart failure
Death rates for veterans with ischemic heart disease and chronic heart failure varied widely across the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system from 2010 to 2014, which could suggest differences in the quality of cardiovascular health care provided by VA medical centers.

Heart failure: The Alzheimer's disease of the heart?
Similar to how protein clumps build up in the brain in people with some neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, protein clumps appear to accumulate in the diseased hearts of mice and people with heart failure, according to a team led by Johns Hopkins University researchers.

Read More: Heart Disease News and Heart Disease Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.