Latest News

Light physical activity lowers CVD risk in older women

View on the News

Focus on physical activity in older women

Older women do not get enough physical activity, so this finding that light physical activity is associated with improved coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease outcomes supports the recent scientific report by the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee. It is also helpful in extending the evidence about the benefits of physical activity in reducing incident coronary heart disease to older women, as previous studies on this topic showed such benefits in men.

These findings should remind health care professionals, systems, and agencies to promote the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans to all patients. Otherwise, the future health and well-being of older women is likely to suffer from the consequences of sedentary behavior and inadequate physical activity.

Gregory W. Heath, DHSc, MPH, is from the department of health and human performance at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga. These comments are adapted from an accompanying editorial (JAMA Netw Open. 2019 Mar 15. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.0405). No conflicts of interest were reported.



Even light physical activity can significantly reduce the risks of acquiring coronary heart disease specifically and the broad range of cardiovascular diseases in older women, new data suggests.

izusek/Getty Images

A paper published in JAMA Network Open reported the outcome of a prospective cohort study in 5,861 women, with a mean age of 78.5 years, who wore accelerometers for 7 days to measure physical activity.

Women in the highest quartile for light physical activity – more than 5.6 hours per day – had a 32% lower risk of coronary heart disease than those in the lowest quartile of activity, who engaged in less than 3.9 hours per day, after adjusting for factors such as comorbidities, lifestyle, and cardiovascular risk.

Similarly, those in the highest quartile had an 18% lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those in the lowest quartile, after adjusting for potential confounders.

Researchers saw a significant dose-dependent decrease in the risk for incident coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease with increasing light physical activity, such that each 1-hour increment of activity was associated with a 20% decrease in coronary heart disease risk and 10% decrease in cardiovascular disease risk.

Andrea Z. LaCroix, PhD, from the University of California, San Diego, and her coauthors noted that physical activity guidelines for aerobic activity suggest 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity or 150 minutes of moderate activity each day, but only around 25% of U.S. women aged over 75 years are estimated to meet this requirement.

“These guidelines may have discouraged PA [physical activity] when perceived to be unattainable by large segments of the population,” they wrote.

While the majority of active time in older adults is spent doing light physical activity, little is known about the cardiovascular effects of participating in this level of activity. “A major barrier has been that self-reported questionnaires measuring leisure-time PA do not adequately capture light PA that is acquired throughout the day in activities of daily living,” they wrote.

The study also looked at the impact of moderate to vigorous physical activity, finding a significant 46% reduction between the highest to lowest quartiles of activity in coronary heart disease risk and a 31% reduction in cardiovascular disease risk.

Even after adjusting for the use of lipid-lowering medication, antihypertensive medication or healthy eating scores, the results remained unchanged. The researchers also saw no change when women with angina and heart failure at baseline were excluded or when they excluded cardiovascular events that occurred during the first 6 months of follow-up.

The study was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the National Institutes of Health; and the Department of Health & Human Services. Six authors reported receiving funding from the study supporters and other research institutions, and one reported membership on the advisory committee for physical activity guidelines. No other conflicts of interest were reported.

SOURCE: LaCroix AZ et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2019 Mar 15. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.0419.

Recommended Reading

E-cig use reverses progress in reducing tobacco use in teens
MDedge Cardiology
PTSD, cardiovascular disease link likely caused by higher comorbidity burden
MDedge Cardiology
Physiological versus pathological cardiac remodeling in athletes
MDedge Cardiology
Short sleep linked with high homocysteine for some populations
MDedge Cardiology
Vaccination and antiviral treatment do not affect stroke risk following shingles
MDedge Cardiology
Take action to mitigate CVD risk in RA patients
MDedge Cardiology
Statin adherence lower in women, minorities
MDedge Cardiology
Much still unknown about inflammation’s role in RA patients’ CVD risk
MDedge Cardiology
Myeloma therapies raise cardiovascular risks
MDedge Cardiology
Heart-harming toxins may hurt hookah smokers
MDedge Cardiology