Study shows each hour sitting increases heart disease risk by 14%

Reuters / Tobias Schwarz
Excessive sitting causes coronary artery calcification, associated with heart problems, a new study concludes. Each hour spent sitting, regardless of the time spent exercising, boosts the chance of a heart disease by 14 percent.

US researchers, who analyzed the data on heart scans and physical activity of more than 2,000 people living in Dallas, whose average age was 50, have found out that “each hour of sedentary time per day on average was associated with a 14 percent increase in coronary artery calcification burden.”

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This finding means that even exercise can’t prevent the most common type of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Thursday American College of Cardiology's press-release.

“It’s clear that exercise is important to reduce your cardiovascular risk and improve your fitness level,” said the study’s lead author Jacquelyn Kulinski. “But this study suggests that reducing how much you sit every day may represent a more novel, companion strategy (in addition to exercise) to help reduce your cardiovascular risk.”

The research, dubbed “Sedentary behavior is associated with coronary artery calcification in the Dallas heart study,” is set to be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 64th Annual Scientific Session in San Diego on March 15.

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“I think the study offers a promising message. Reducing the amount of time you sit by even an hour or two a day could have a significant and positive impact on your future cardiovascular health,” Kulinski said.

Non-invasive CT heart scans, that show the amount of calcium in the heart’s arteries, as well as accelerometers – motion-tracking devices that could measure time spent sitting and exercising were a feature of the study. “With surveys, there’s more subjectivity,” Kulinski said. “With this device, we’re able to log activity levels minute-by-minute.”

The participants of the study spent on average about five hours a day sitting, ranging from two to 12 hours. The more sedentary people were likely to be older, with a higher body mass index, diabetes or hypertension.

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The researchers also accounted for a series of demographic and health-related factors, such as income, marital status, smoking or cholesterol. They didn’t fail to exclude people with known cardiovascular disease from the panel.

“The lesson here is that it’s really important to try to move as much as possible in your daily life; for example, take a walk during lunch, pace while talking on the phone, take the stairs instead of the elevator and use a pedometer to track your daily steps,” Kulinski said. “And if you do have a very sedentary job, don’t go home at night and sit in front of the TV for hours on end.”

A lot of recent studies mention a special phenomenon – so-called “sitting disease.” Not being a medical condition, but rather a lifestyle factor, it links sedentary lifestyle with early death and such diseases as diabetes and cancer.