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By Stephenie Karony

Wednesday, June 28, 2000

Weightlifting also
good for the heart

Question: My friend told me she heard that weightlifting helps reduce a person's risk of developing coronary artery disease.

I always thought it was aerobic exercise that was good for the heart. What's the story?

Answer: Aerobic exercise has always been touted as the best type of exercise for the heart.

The American Heart Association now says that the combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training yields greater cardiovascular benefits than aerobic exercise alone.

First, did you know that being just 20 percent over your healthy body weight can increase your risk of heart disease?

We all know that aerobic exercise burns calories more efficiently than any other type of exercise.

What you may not know is that the more muscle a person has, the more calories they burn, not only while exercising, but all the time, even while sleeping. Since muscle is metabolically active (fat is not), a person's metabolism naturally increases with increased muscle mass.

Weightlifting also increases levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, while reducing levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. It's the LDLs that oxidize into plaque and clog up your arteries, while the HDLs gobble up the LDLs and prevent them from doing any damage.

Lifting weights conditions your heart by minimizing the elevation in heart rate and blood pressure that normally occurs when people lift or carry heavy objects. When you gradually increase the stress load on the heart over weeks of training, your heart adapts to a higher training workload.

Finally, studies show that resistance training reduces an individual's resting blood pressure.

Despite all these benefits, weightlifting isn't for everyone. It's probably too risky for those with unstable angina, congestive heart disease, untreated hypertension, severe valve disease or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Q: Why is the term "moderate alcohol intake" defined differently for men and women?

A: The definition of moderate alcohol intake for women is one drink per day, and for men no more than two drinks per day.

There are several reasons for the difference.

Women tend to be a lot smaller than men, so they usually end up with a higher blood level of alcohol in their systems, thus becoming more intoxicated than men from the same amount of alcohol consumed.

Women tend to carry more body fat and store less water than their male counterparts.

Because water dilutes alcohol, this increases alcohol's potency in a woman's body.

An even more important reason has to do with the stomach enzyme that breaks down alcohol before it reaches the bloodstream. This enzyme is much less active in women than in men, therefore more alcohol enters the bloodstream from the stomach in women.

Studies also show that women have a higher risk of serious health consequences with long term drinking. They are more likely to develop liver damage, heart disease, osteoporosis and breast cancer.

Finally, pregnant women who drink even one drink a day risk having babies with fetal alcohol syndrome. No level of alcohol consumption is safe during pregnancy. Pregnant women shouldn't drink at all.

Health Events

Stephenie Karony is a certified health
and fitness instructor, a personal trainer and the author of
"Body Shaping with Free Weights." Send questions to her at
P.O. Box 262, Wailuku Hi. Her column appears on Wednesdays.

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