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Study eyes best way to assess heart risk in women

By Kat Carney
CNN Headline News

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(CNN) -- A woman's fitness on a treadmill exam may help determine a woman's risk of heart disease, a study suggests.

Yet some doctors may have been hesitant to perform treadmill tests on women because they say the results could be misleading due to hormonal differences between men and women.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, are challenging that view.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health.

During a stress test, a patient's heart activity is monitored, while the pace of the treadmill is gradually increased.

Doctors look at how the heart reacts to the increased workload and how quickly the heart recovers after the activity has stopped.

In the John Hopkins follow-up study of more than 3,000 women over the course of 20 years, those who performed poorly on treadmill tests taken in the 1970s were 3.5 times more likely to die of heart disease.

Cardiologist Nieca Goldberg told Reuters the study is important because it addresses the question about the best way to assess heart risk in women.

The study's author, Dr. Samia Mora, says regular exercise is more important than losing weight, lowering blood pressure or reducing cholesterol when it comes to lowering a woman's risk of heart attack and stroke.

The results of the study were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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