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Sudden Cardiac Death Rare Among Middle-aged Women Who Exercise

Despite growing public concerns that older women who exercise could be at higher risk of sudden cardiac death, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association says it's okay for those women to keep on exercising.

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston followed the health and exercise habits of 120,000 middle-aged women from 1980 to 2004. Lead author Christine Albert says exercise-related cardiac death was an extremely rare event.

"The risk was only one sudden cardiac death per 36.5 million person-hours spent exercising," she says. "So even though it's something that gathers a lot of attention when it happens, the risk is actually very, very low."

While researchers did find a slightly elevated risk for women who rarely exercise, Dr. Albert says the news is good for those who work harder at staying fit. "We found that women who exercise four or more hours a week had a 60 percent lower risk of sudden cardiac death as compared to women who did not exercise."

Dr. Albert says in comparison to a prior study that we did among male physicians, the risk of sudden cardiac death during vigorous exertion was approximately 19 times higher in men than in women.

Dr. Albert says the study results promote exercise as a means to better health.