In a new study, researchers found light physical activity could help strongly lower the risk of heart disease in women 63 and older.
Light physical activity examples include gardening, strolling through a park, and folding clothes.
This type of activity could help cut the risk of stroke or heart failure by about 22% and the risk of heart attack or coronary death by about 42%.
The research was conducted by researchers from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
Previous studies have shown that heart disease is the leading cause of death among American women, especially in older women. About 70% of women are age 60 and 79 have heart disease.
In all of the U.S. adults, about 85.6 million adults have at least one type of heart disease and more than 50% of them are age 60 or older.
In the current study, the team aimed to see if higher amounts of light physical activity were linked to lower risks of heart disease.
They examined more than 5,800 women ages 63 to 97 for five years. None of the women had a history of heart attack or stroke.
To monitor these women’s physical activity, the team used hip-mounted accelerometers. The device could measure the women’s movement 24 hours a day for seven consecutive days.
The device could also distinguish between light and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.
The measurement is more accurate than self-reporting questionnaires, which may exclude some physical activities like folding clothes or walking to the mailbox.
They found there was a clear link before physical activity and heart disease risk. The higher the amount of activity, the lower the risk of heart disease.
The strong connection is independent of the women’s overall health status, functional ability or even age.
The findings suggest that for older women any movement could help improve heart health.
They are consistent with the federal government’s physical activity guidelines, which suggest people take regular exercise every week.
The researchers suggest older people should replace sedentary behavior with light physical activity as much as possible.
This is the first study to examine the link between light physical activity measured by accelerometer and heart disease risk in older women.
The leader of the study is Andrea LaCroix, Ph.D., chair of the Division of Epidemiology and director of the Women’s Health Center of Excellence at the UCSD.
The study is published in JAMA Network Open.
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