July 1, 2002
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Tennis Gets An Ace For Holding Off Heart Disease  

Men who start playing tennis in their youth and are good at it are likely to continue playing the sport for years, thereby keeping heart disease at bay well into middle-age, a Johns Hopkins study shows.

Researchers studied 1,019 male medical students at Hopkins between 1948 to 1964, asking them to rate their ability in tennis, golf, football, baseball and basketball during medical school and earlier, and giving them a standard physical examination. Through annual questionnaires, researchers assessed the participants' physical activity an average of 22 and 40 years later.

Those who reported greater ability in tennis in medical school had the highest participation in the sport in mid-life, with 33 percent playing within a week of the follow-up surveys, according to results published in the June 15 issue of the American Journal of Medicine. They had a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and heart attack compared to those who didn't play tennis. Those good at golf also kept up the sport, but at a lower rate. Few to none of the men who played football, baseball and basketball participated in those sports in mid-life.

"Although some participants reported higher-level ability in other sports, tennis was the sport most frequently played through mid-life, which may explain its beneficial effects in preventing cardiovascular disease," says Michael J. Klag, M.D., M.P.H., senior author of the study and director of the Division of General Internal Medicine at Hopkins. "For physical activity to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, it must be sustained throughout life, which is something that should be considered by people planning physical education programs in middle schools and high schools."

Houston, T.K. et al, "Sports Ability in Young Men and the Incidence of Cardiovascular Disease," American Journal of Medicine 2002; Vol. 112: pages 689-695.



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