Nav: Home

Light physical activity linked to lower risk of heart disease in older women

March 15, 2019

Light physical activity such as gardening, strolling through a park, and folding clothes might be enough to significantly lower the risk of cardiovascular disease among women 63 and older, a new study has found. This kind of activity, researchers said, appears to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease events such as stroke or heart failure by up to 22 percent, and the risk of heart attack or coronary death, by as much as 42 percent.

The results of the study, which was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health, appear today in the journal JAMA Network Open.

"When we tell people to move with heart, we mean it, and the supporting evidence keeps growing," said David Goff, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences at NHLBI. "This study suggests that for older women, any and all movement counts towards better cardiovascular health." Goff added that the findings are consistent with the federal government's most recent physical activity guidelines, which encourage replacing sedentary behavior with light physical activity as much as possible.

In the five-year prospective study, researchers followed more than 5,800 women ages 63 to 97 to find out if higher amounts of light physical activity were associated with reduced risks of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease.

Across all racial and ethnic groups, the link was clear, said study author Andrea LaCroix, Ph.D., chair of the Division of Epidemiology and director of the Women's Health Center of Excellence at the University of California, San Diego.

"The higher the amount of activity, the lower the risk," she said. "And the risk reduction showed regardless of the women's overall health status, functional ability or even age. In other words, the association with light physical activity was apparent regardless of these other factors."

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among American women, and older women suffer profoundly: nearly 68 percent of those between 60 and 79 have it, as do older Americans overall. Of the estimated 85.6 million adults with at least one type of cardiovascular disease, more than half are age 60 or older.

The current study involved a racially and ethnically diverse group of 5,861 women who were enrolled between 2012 and 2014. None had a history of myocardial infarction or stroke. The women were part of the NHLBI-funded Objective Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health (OPACH), a sub-cohort of the Women's Health Initiative.

Participants wore hip-mounted accelerometers, a device like a fitness tracker, that measured their movement 24 hours a day for seven consecutive days. The accelerometers were also calibrated by age to distinguish between light, and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity--a monitoring detail considered a major strength of the study. The researchers then followed the participants for almost five years, tracking cardiovascular disease events such as heart attacks and strokes.

"To our knowledge, this is the first study to investigate light physical activity measured by accelerometer in relation to fatal and non-fatal coronary heart disease in older women," said LaCroix, who led the OPACH study.

Previous studies have largely relied on self-reporting questionnaires, but most people, the researchers said, do not think of folding clothes or walking to the mailbox as physical activity of any kind.

"Those questionnaires do not capture the low intensity movements accrued in activities of daily living," LaCroix said. Even in her own OPACH findings, she noted, "there was no correlation between the amount of self-reported light physical activity and the amount we measured with the accelerometers. Without accurate reporting, we run the risk of discounting low intensity activity associated with important heart health benefits," she said.

Researchers need to conduct large randomized trials to determine if particular interventions might increase light physical activity in older women, and what effect that would have on cardiovascular disease rates. But the OPACH authors said they encourage this group to increase their light physical activity immediately.
-end-
Study: LaCroix, A et al. Association of Light Physical Activity Measured by Accelerometry and Incidence of Coronary Heart Disease and Cardiovascular Disease in Older Women. DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.0419

About the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI): NHLBI is the global leader in conducting and supporting research in heart, lung, and blood diseases and sleep disorders that advances scientific knowledge, improves public health, and saves lives. For more information, visit http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.

NIH...Turning Discovery Into Health

NIH/National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

Related Heart Disease Articles:

Where you live could determine risk of heart attack, stroke or dying of heart disease
People living in parts of Ontario with better access to preventive health care had lower rates of cardiac events compared to residents of regions with less access, found a new study published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
Older adults with heart disease can become more independent and heart healthy with physical activity
Improving physical function among older adults with heart disease helps heart health and even the oldest have a better quality of life and greater independence.
Dietary factors associated with substantial proportion of deaths from heart disease, stroke, and disease
Nearly half of all deaths due to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes in the US in 2012 were associated with suboptimal consumption of certain dietary factors, according to a study appearing in the March 7 issue of JAMA.
Certain heart fat associated with higher risk of heart disease in postmenopausal women
For the first time, researchers have pinpointed a type of heart fat, linked it to a risk factor for heart disease and shown that menopausal status and estrogen levels are critical modifying factors of its associated risk in women.
Maternal chronic disease linked to higher rates of congenital heart disease in babies
Pregnant women with congenital heart defects or type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of giving birth to babies with severe congenital heart disease and should be monitored closely in the prenatal period, according to a study published in CMAJ.
Novel heart valve replacement offers hope for thousands with rheumatic heart disease
A novel heart valve replacement method is revealed today that offers hope for the thousands of patients with rheumatic heart disease who need the procedure each year.
Younger heart attack survivors may face premature heart disease death
For patients age 50 and younger, the risk of premature death after a heart attack has dropped significantly, but their risk is still almost twice as high when compared to the general population, largely due to heart disease and other smoking-related diseases The risk of heart attack can be greatly reduced by quitting smoking, exercising and following a healthy diet.
Citrus fruits could help prevent obesity-related heart disease, liver disease, diabetes
Oranges and other citrus fruits are good for you -- they contain plenty of vitamins and substances, such as antioxidants, that can help keep you healthy.
Gallstone disease may increase heart disease risk
A history of gallstone disease was linked to a 23 percent increased risk of developing coronary heart disease.
Americans are getting heart-healthier: Coronary heart disease decreasing in the US
Coronary heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States.

Related Heart Disease Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Changing The World
What does it take to change the world for the better? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on activism—what motivates it, why it matters, and how each of us can make a difference. Guests include civil rights activist Ruby Sales, labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, author Jeremy Heimans, "craftivist" Sarah Corbett, and designer and futurist Angela Oguntala.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#521 The Curious Life of Krill
Krill may be one of the most abundant forms of life on our planet... but it turns out we don't know that much about them. For a create that underpins a massive ocean ecosystem and lives in our oceans in massive numbers, they're surprisingly difficult to study. We sit down and shine some light on these underappreciated crustaceans with Stephen Nicol, Adjunct Professor at the University of Tasmania, Scientific Advisor to the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies, and author of the book "The Curious Life of Krill: A Conservation Story from the Bottom of the World".