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03-10-2011 | Cardiometabolic | Article

Lifestyle intervention reduces body weight, improves CVD risk factors

Abstract

Free abstract

MedWire News: A 30-day lifestyle intervention delivered by volunteers can significantly reduce body weight and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors in adults, with those at the greatest risk benefiting most, say researchers.

Darren Morton (Avondale College of Higher Education, New South Wales, Australia) and team evaluated the effectiveness of CHIP (Coronary Health Improvement Project), a volunteer-directed, community-based lifestyle modification program, in reducing CVD risk factors in over 5000 self-selected adults (mean age 57.2 years).

During the 30-day program, the participants received lifestyle counseling from volunteers through 16 group sessions. The program encouraged participants to eat a whole-food, plant-based diet, with emphasis on the consumption of grains, legumes, fresh fruits, and vegetables. They were also encouraged to consume 2-2.5 l of water daily and participate in at least 30 minutes of daily aerobic exercise.

Before delivering the program, the volunteers underwent a 2-day training workshop and received a resource package that included all the materials required to deliver CHIP effectively.

Overall, significant reductions were observed in body mass (3.2%), total cholesterol (11.0%), low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (13.0%), triglycerides (7.7%), systolic and diastolic blood pressure (4.9% and 5.3%, respectively), and fasting plasma glucose (6.1%).

When the researchers stratified the participants according to conventional risk factor categories (defined by the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel-III criteria) they found those presenting with the greatest risk factor levels at baseline had the greatest improvements.

Indeed, of those with total cholesterol levels above 280 mg/dl (7.25 mmol/l) at baseline, 77% no longer remained in this category by the end of the intervention. Similarly, 43% of those with fasting plasma glucose levels above 125 mg/dl at baseline had reduced their risk factor categorization after the intervention.

A mean decrease of 16.1% was observed in LDL cholesterol levels among those who entered the program with levels above 190 mg/dl (4.92 mmol/l), while individuals who presented with triglycerides over 500 mg/dl (5.65 mmol/l) had a mean reduction of 44.1%.

Finally, a significant reduction was found in the number of participants requiring medication, with 1085 (21.4%) reporting medication use at the start of the intervention and 879 (17.4%) at the end.

"The results of the present study have demonstrated that volunteers can be valuable social capital in the combat of CVD," write the authors in the American Journal of Cardiology.

They conclude: "Resourced with appropriate, well-developed materials and programs, volunteers can act as powerful agents of change for health promotion within their community."

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By Nikki Withers