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Heart Foundation Funds Women’s Lifestyle Study

3 September 2004

National Heart Foundation Funds Women’s Lifestyle Study

Wellington researchers receive funding for lifestyle study

The National Heart Foundation (NHF) has awarded its largest grant this year of $318,000 to a study that looks into whether a sustained physical activity program reduces risk factors of heart disease and type 2 diabetes in New Zealand women.

The New Zealand Women’s Lifestyle Study is being led by Dr Beverley Lawton, Dr Sally Rose and others from University of Otago’s Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Dr Lawton describes the study as “important” because, she says, “research in New Zealand has not yet been able to show changes in diabetes risk factors including physical inactivity, high blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and insulin levels through changes in lifestyle.”

New Zealand currently faces an epidemic of type 2 diabetes, which in turn is a key risk factor for heart disease. Over the next two years 800 women aged between 50-75 years in the Wellington and Hutt areas will be recruited for the Women’s Lifestyle Study.

Participants will be invited to visit a study nurse to discuss their current health and lifestyle, and undergo a blood pressure check and a blood test, to measure cholesterol, blood sugar and insulin levels. The women will undergo further tests throughout the two-year study period to record any changes.

“Overseas studies have shown that lifestyle programmes can reduce an individual’s chance of developing diabetes,” Dr Lawton says.

“Those overseas programs would not be practical outside the research setting and a New Zealand specific lifestyle change programme is needed to reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease.”

Dr Lawton hopes that if the study shows positive effects on the risk factors for diabetes and heart disease, the program will be rolled out nationally.

Parallel to the New Zealand Women’s Lifestyle Study, Dr Lawton and Dr Rose are conducting a similar study to look at the effects of a lifestyle programme on risk factors in Maori women. The parallel study has received funding from a Lottery Health Research Grant and the Hutt Valley District Health Board. Both studies have also received support from Sport and Recreation New Zealand (SPARC).


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