In a new study, researchers found sedentary behavior, like sitting for a long time, was related to future cardiovascular disease (CVD) in older people.
Previous studies have shown that higher sedentary time is linked to a higher risk for heart attack and stroke. However, the evidence is based mainly on self-reported measures.
In the current study, the team examined whether patterns of sedentary time are associated with a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.
They tested more than 5500 women from the Women from the OPACH Study (Objective Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health).
These women aged 63–97 years and had no history of heart attack or stroke. The team followed up the women for about 5 years to check their heart health.
Different from previous studies, these women wore small electronic devices engineered to measure their sedentary time.
The researchers found these women sat for about 9.2 hours per day with a range of 3.3-14.1 hours a day.
Women with the highest total sedentary time had the highest risk of heart attack and stroke.
In particular, each additional hour of sedentary time was linked to a 12% increase in overall heart disease risk and a 26% increase in risk for heart attacks.
On the contrary, women with the shortest sedentary bouts had a 54% lower risk for heart disease compared to women with the longest sedentary time.
So why sitting for a long time is so bad for health?
The team explains that when people sit for a long period, our metabolism, blood flow, and muscle activity all decrease.
Blood pools in legs and this can lead to clots called deep vein thromboses.
In addition, the unused muscles uptake less fuel from the blood, and this can lead to poor blood sugar metabolism and higher insulin resistance.
Recent research also has shown that sitting too long is linked to been linked to disease in blood vessels, high blood pressure and high fat in the blood.
The researchers suggest that regularly interrupting sitting can shorten sedentary bouts.
This can be used as a good method to reduce the chances of getting heart attacks and strokes.
The lead author of the study is John Bellettiere, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of California San Diego.
The study is published in Circulation.
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Further reading: Circulation.