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Pushing Healthy Lifestyle Cuts Risk of Chronic Disease for Blacks: Study

MONDAY, April 25 (HealthDay News) -- A program promoting exercise and other healthy lifestyle habits that can help prevent chronic disease proved effective for black American couples in which one partner has HIV and the other does not, a new study finds.

Researchers divided 535 such couples -- known in medical language as HIV-serodiscordant couples -- into two groups. Two hundred and sixty couples participated in an intervention to reduce the risk of transmitting and getting HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, and 275 couples took part in a program to reduce the risk of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, diabetes and certain cancers through healthy behaviors.

These healthy steps included physical activity, increased fruit and vegetable consumption and screenings for breast and prostate cancer.

Both programs involved eight weekly two-hour sessions. The couples reported their healthy behaviors at the start of the study, immediately after they completed the program, and six to 12 months after the program. The average age of the participants was 43, and the female was the HIV-positive partner in 60.4 percent of the couples.

The study appears in the April 25 issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

"Health promotion intervention participants were more likely to report consuming five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily and adhering to physical activity guidelines compared with HIV/STD intervention participants," wrote Nabila El-Bassel and colleagues from the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health Multisite HIV/STD Prevention Trial for African-American Couples Group.

"In the health promotion intervention compared with the HIV/STD intervention, participants consumed fatty foods less frequently, more men received prostate cancer screening, and more women received a mammogram. Alcohol use did not differ between the intervention groups," the researchers said in a journal news release.

In 2007, blacks accounted for 48 percent of people in the United States with HIV. Because medicines, particularly highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), are so effective, many people with HIV are living longer and are therefore at risk for other chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

"In conclusion, African Americans are at high risk for morbidity and mortality from chronic diseases and are less likely to report engaging in behaviors associated with reduced risk of such diseases and to detect them at an early stage," the authors wrote.

"Moreover, the risk of chronic disease is of particular concern for African Americans living with HIV because HIV and its treatment with HAART are associated with increased risk," they added.

The study revealed low rates of fruit and vegetable consumption, physical activity and cancer screening among the participants. "Accordingly, this study is important, demonstrating that [intervention] that teaches skills caused positive changes on multiple behaviors linked to chronic diseases in African American members" of this group, the researchers wrote.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about living with HIV/AIDS.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, April 25, 2011

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