Older Latinas please stand up! Simple intervention encourages better health

November 09, 2020

Embargoed until 4 a.m. CT/5 a.m. ET, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020

DALLAS, Nov. 9, 2020 -- Overweight, sedentary, postmenopausal Latinas participating in a 12-week intervention program that counseled them about how to stand more and sit less greatly reduced daily sitting time, according to preliminary research to be presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2020. The meeting will be held virtually, Friday, November 13 - Tuesday, November 17, 2020, and is a premier global exchange of the latest scientific advancements, research and evidence-based clinical practice updates in cardiovascular science for health care worldwide.

"There is more and more research that indicates people who spend a lot of time sitting, either at work or at home, are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease and circulation problems. However, there are not many studies that have explored ways to change this behavior, particularly among older women of diverse backgrounds," said study author Gregory Talavera, M.D., M.P.H., professor of psychology at San Diego State University in San Diego, California. "Our simple intervention can substitute for or complement other lifestyle changes aimed at decreasing cardiovascular disease risk in older people who are often the most sedentary compared to people in other age groups."

Talavera and colleagues studied 254 overweight, sedentary, postmenopausal Latinas (average age 64) from disadvantaged backgrounds in San Diego from 2017 to 2019. Researchers randomly assigned the women to take part in a 12-week standing intervention program or a comparison group that received an equal number of contacts to discuss topics on healthy aging.

Women in the intervention group interacted with counselors eight times during the 12 weeks. Three of those meetings were in-person including one in each participant's home. Five were telephone sessions. The women learned how to address barriers to standing in their daily lives. The most common barriers were time and lower extremity pain due to arthritis. Counselors talked with the women about social cues, personal habits and how to change them with the goal of sitting less. Interventions included: behavioral contracts; sharing what they had learned with their family members for social support; biofeedback from a thigh-worn inclinometer (measures sitting/standing/laying down time); a small portable standing desk; and a wrist-worn timer that vibrated reminding them to stand.

The control group received written information and 12 phone counseling sessions to promote healthy aging.

While tailoring the program, researchers considered the family-oriented aspects among this group because many of the women lived in multi-generational homes. It was also important to understand the traditional/conservative gender roles within Latino communities that could impact their ability to be more physically active (within a multi-generational home in Latino communities, older women are less likely to work outside the home and more likely to be a caretaker to other family members and handle a lot of household chores).

"We provided cultural tailoring for the program, adapting an English version of the protocol into Spanish with changes that reflect Latina lifestyles such as incorporating standing time while completing household chores," Talavera said. "This program can be done in the home and could benefit women who are unable to participate in traditional physical activity."

Using data from the thigh-worn inclinometer, researchers found: "These were older women with a number of health conditions that affected their ability to participate in traditional physical activities, so we were very surprised by how large of an improvement the intervention group demonstrated after only 12 weeks," Talavera said. "Many older women of diverse backgrounds experience lower extremity problems such as arthritis. We believe this easy intervention may also benefit other groups of older women."

Eligible participants self-identified as Latina and Spanish- or English-speaking with no current use of insulin or severe health conditions that would prevent participation in the study.

Co-authors are Sheila Castaneda, Ph.D.; Maria Lopez-Gurrola, M.D.; Ana Rebeca Alvarez-Malo, M.D.; Johanne Hernandez, R.N., M.B.A.; Dorothy Sears, Ph.D.; Chase Reuter, B.S.; Loki Natarajan, Ph.D.; Michelle Takemoto, Ph.D.; Ya-Ju Chang, Ph.D.; Yesenia Avitia, B.S.; Areilia Haimovich, B.S.; Luis Ornales, B.S.; Andrea De La Torre, B.S.; and Matthew Allison, M.D., M.P.H. Author disclosures are in the abstract.

The American Heart Association's Strategically Focused Research Network on Women's Health funded the study.

This abstract will be presented in Cardiovascular Disease in Women: Special Topics.
Additional Resources:

Multimedia, including a video perspective interview with American Heart Association national board and committee member, Ileana L. Piña, M.D., M.P.H., FAHA, FACC, may be downloaded from the right column of the release link

How much physical activity do you need?
Spanish News Release including a video perspective in Spanish with AIleana L. Piña, M.D., MPH.
For older adults, more physical activity could mean longer, healthier lives
Sitting more is associated with higher heart disease risk in older women
How to Move More Anytime Anywhere
American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids

Encuentre más historias en español de AHA News aquí.
For more news at AHA Scientific Sessions 2020, follow us on Twitter @HeartNews #AHA20.

Statements and conclusions of studies that are presented at the American Heart Association's scientific meetings 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 biotech companies, device manufacturers and health insurance providers are available here, and the Association's overall financial information is available here.

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a leading force for a world of longer, healthier lives. With nearly a century of lifesaving work, the Dallas-based association is dedicated to ensuring equitable health for all. We are a trustworthy source empowering people to improve their heart health, brain health and well-being. We collaborate with numerous organizations and millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, advocate for stronger public health policies, and share lifesaving resources and information. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

American Heart Association

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