February is National Heart Month to raise awareness about heart disease, which is the number one leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 610,000 people die of heart disease every year in the United States. The CDC estimates that about 200,000 of these deaths could have been prevented by making positive lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, managing high blood pressure, managing diabetes, managing cholesterol and getting more physical exercise. Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women in the United States. It is estimated that 67.9% of women ages 60-79 have cardiovascular disease, which puts them at high risk for a heart attack or stroke. However, a new study published February 19, 2019 in CIRCULATION shows that for older women a very simple way to lower the risk for heart disease simply is to get up from sitting and move more.
The study was on 5638 women from the OPACH Study (Objective Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health) ages 63 to 97 who had no history of heart attack or stroke when they entered the study.
Accelerators to Measure Movement
Until now the only way researchers could check out how much sedentary behavior like excessive sitting was the norm for some people was by having people fill out questionnaires. However, this new study made use of accelerators attached to the hips of the women that measured their physical movements 24 hours a day for 4-7 days. They were then followed for four years.
Those women who had the highest amounts of sedentary sitting and lying around had the highest rates of cardiovascular disease.
The results strongly suggest that getting up and becoming more physically active instead of spending so many hours sitting or lying around could reduce the risk for a heart attack or stroke.
The researchers found that by lowering by only one hour the time the women sat, lowered their risk for cardiovascular diseases (CVD) by 12%. However, for heart disease alone, lowering the time they sat around by only one hour lowered their risk for heart disease by 26%!
Higher Risk of Death from all Causes
According to a study published June 26, 2018 in the American Journal of Epidemiology by the American Cancer Society, too much prolonged sedentary sitting was associated with a 19% higher risk for death from all causes including:
- Coronary heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Musculoskeletal disorders
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Liver diseases and digestive disorders
- Nervous disorders and more
The study included 127,554 people who had no health problems or diseases when they joined the study. They were followed for 21 years from 1993-2014. During this time 48,754 of the participants died and there was a strong association between the prolonged sedentary sitting and death from all causes.
Sitting Six or More Hours in Front of Television or Computer can Shorten Life
The researchers discovered that most of the deadly prolonged leisure sitting for six or more hours a day was in front of the television or computer screen. Also, this prolonged sitting time may have been accompanied by snacking on junk food and smoking. Before the advent of TV and computers people had to go out for entertainment and few could afford to pay for six non-stop hours of watching movies in a movie theater!
Too much sitting can also cause problems with the functioning of the immune system and hormone levels.
Prolonged Sedentary Sitting Associated with Poor Brain Health and Risk for Dementia
In our blog post from April 20, 2018 we wrote about another study that showed a high association between too much sitting and poor brain health that could lead to dementia.
Choose a Rehab that Offers Physical Activity and Recreational Therapy
Actually seniors that live alone and are lonely may spend much more time sitting in front of the TV than those who are in a rehab that offers all kinds of recreational activities and great opportunities for socialization and making new friends.
Choose a Rehab or Skilled Nursing Facility that offers physical exercise and also great recreational therapy like the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York. They tailor the activities to each resident according to their ability to participate, so even those that are frail can get involved in some kind of physical activity and enjoy all the recreational activities. For more about recreational therapy at Van Duyn see our blog post from July 11, 2018.
It pays to heed the results of all of these studies and avoid too much sitting or lying around, which can lead to heart disease and other deadly diseases.