Researchers find physical inactivity the most likely predictor of heart disease in women
Physical activity is more likely to determine a woman’s risk of heart disease than other factors, including high blood pressure, obesity and smoking, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of Queensland (Australia), analyzed data on more than 32,000 women, and found that a sedentary lifestyle was the leading risk factor for heart disease at every age from the early 30s to the late 80s. The study measured the top four heart disease risk factors—obesity, smoking, hypertension and physical inactivity. Combined, the factors account for more than 50 percent of heart disease worldwide.
“We have to get everyone to move more,” says lead author Wendy Brown, director of the university’s Center for Research on Exercise, Physical Activity and Health. “From about age 30, physical activity levels decline. We need to do everything we can to prevent this.”
Though smoking tended to drive heart disease rates for younger women, in those older than 30, researchers found that low levels of physical activity increased a woman’s risk of heart disease by 33 percent for middle-aged women and 24 percent for older women.
If every woman between the ages of 30 and 90 got up off the sofa for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (recommendations are the same in Australia and the United States), the researchers concluded that the lives of more than 2,000 middle-aged and older women could be saved each year.
“Aerobic exercise and activity is very important for cardiovascular and metabolic health, and strength training is very important for musculoskeletal health that maintains the ability to conduct activities of daily living in older age,” Brown says, noting that the type of exercise doesn’t matter. “Both are important.”