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Sedentary behavior linked to heart risk in Hispanics

September 28, 2015

DALLAS, Sept. 28, 2015 -- Spending a lot of time being sedentary appears to be risky for Hispanics' heart health, even when they get regular exercise, according to new research in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation.

"Any time people are off their feet and in one place -- including while they are sitting and reading, doing office work, watching TV, eating, or riding in a car or bus -- they are considered sedentary," said Qibin Qi, Ph.D., study lead author and assistant professor of epidemiology and population health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System in New York City. "For people who have sedentary jobs, it's unclear whether more exercise at other times of day can reduce their heart risk. Still, these data suggest that getting up from your desk job to move around once in a while could be beneficial."

Researchers used 2008-11 data from the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos and divided 12,083 Hispanic adults into four groups according to how much time they spent being sedentary, as determined by an accelerometer -- a device that can measure time spent sedentary and physically active. All participants received physical exams, including a blood draw. Participants were of Mexican, South American, Cuban, Dominican, Puerto Rican or Central American backgrounds and they lived in Chicago, Miami, San Diego, or the Bronx, N.Y.

Researchers found that the more inactive they were, the higher their heart and diabetes risks were, according to several health markers. Compared to Hispanics with the highest physical activity, those who were most inactive had:
  • 6 percent lower blood levels of HDL cholesterol (known as the "good" cholesterol);
  • 16 percent higher triglycerides, a fat associated with buildup of plaque in the arteries; and
  • 29 percent higher measure of insulin resistance, indicating that the body isn't able to use insulin as effectively to process blood sugar.
"The highest-risk group was sedentary more than 13 hours a day," Qi said. "The link between more sedentary time and worse test results occurred regardless of whether people met weekly exercise guidelines, which call for 150 minutes of moderate activity, 75 minutes of vigorous activity, or an equivalent combination."

The negative impact of sedentary time on health was consistent across young and old, men and women, and in normal and overweight people, as well as in Hispanics of differing national origins. The research team accounted for multiple factors that could affect health, including education and employment, smoking, alcohol consumption, diet and medications.

"Individuals at high risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes should work with their doctor to manage specific disease risk factors through diet and lifestyle modifications, medications, and other strategies," Qi said. "Efforts to reduce time spent in sedentary behaviors may play an important role in prevention strategies."
Co-authors are Garrett Strizich, M.P.H.; Gina Merchant, M.A.; Daniela Sotres-Alvarez, Dr.P.H.; Christina Buelna, M.A.; Sheila F. Castañeda, Ph.D.; Linda C. Gallo, Ph.D.; Jianwen Cai, Ph.D.; Marc D. Gellman, Ph.D.; Carmen R. Isasi, M.D., Ph.D.; Ashley E. Moncrieft, Ph.D.; Lisa Sanchez-Johnsen, Ph.D.; Neil Schneiderman, Ph.D.; and Robert C. Kaplan, Ph.D.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute funded the study.

Additional Resources:

Researcher video, sedentary activity photos, and heart graphic are located in the right column of this release link After Sept. 28, 2015, view the manuscript online.
Hispanics and Heart Disease, Stroke
Nearly half of Hispanics with high cholesterol don't realize it
Follow AHA/ASA news on Twitter @HeartNews.
For updates and new science from the Circulation journal follow @CircAHA.

Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the association's policy or position. The association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at

American Heart Association

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