Light exercise can cut a senior woman’s risk of dying of a heart attack by up to 42 percent, a new study suggests.
And simply being up and moving around for more time can reduce the risk of developing heart disease by as much as 22 percent, according to the University of California, San Diego study.
Though heart disease has generally been on the decline for the last 20 years, those reductions have leveled off in recent years. There was even a slight uptick in women’s heart disease from 2014 to 2015, before rates fell again in 2016.
DNA may dictate that some people’s hearts and veins – particularly black people – are more affected by their environments and behaviors, but lifestyle choices play an out-sized role in preventing or predisposing us to heart problems.
And the latest study suggests women don’t even have to hit the gym to reap the benefits – they just need to get off the couch.
Exercise is among the best ways to reduce heart disease risks – but a new study found that older women don’t need to hit the gym to reap benefits, they just need to move 5.6 hours a day
About a quarter of Americans don’t get any physical activity unless it’s part of their job, and rates of inactivity are even higher among women.
The problem only gets worse as people surpass 65, go into retirement and no longer have work that requires them to get up and about.
Humans are not meant to sit still all the time. A sedentary lifestyle raises risks of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancers, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, osteoporosis and, of course, heart disease an heart attack.
Despite recent progress, heart disease remains the leading cause of death, killing nearly 290,000 American women a year.
The best ways to limit heart disease risks are to never smoke or use tobacco products, eat a diet that promotes heart health and to exercise.
For older women, working out may be a daunting task – especially if it hasn’t been a regular part of their lives.
But the new study suggests that even simple activities like taking a stroll, cooking or playing an instrument can have dramatic effects on heart health.
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, gave nearly 5,900 American women between 50 and 79 accelerometers to monitor their activity 24 hours a day for a week.
The researchers then followed up with the women over the course of an average of three-and-a-half years.
Women’s hours of activity varied widely, with some spending little more than half an hour moving about, and others spending over 10 hours on their feet.
Divided into quartiles, the most active women logged over 5.6 hours of moving time, while the most sedentary were still for all but 3.9 hours or less.
Over the course of those three-and-a-half years, 713 of the women developed some form of heart disease.
Women in the top quartile, who spent over 5.6 hours engaged in physical activity that was very light but enough to require a more energy than sitting were 42 percent less likely to die of a heart attack than those in the least active quartile.
And they were at a 22 percent lower risk of developing heart disease.
Over five hours a day of ‘physical activity’ might seem like a lot, but the kind of energy exertion the study, published in JAMA Open Network, required can be achieved with light housework – like washing dishes – a slow walk, or even playing an instrument, for the musically inclined.
The take-home message, according to a commentary from University of Tennessee at Chattanooga health and human performance professor Gregory Heath, is to follow the very simple, encouraging 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines.
‘Most older adults spend a substantial portion of their day being sedentary, so the key guidelines start in a similar fashion as those for adults—move more and sit less throughout the day.’