Light physical activity may lower risk of cardiovascular disease in older women

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WASHINGTON: According to a recent study, light physical activity like gardening, strolling through a park and folding clothes might be enough to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease among women 63 aged and older.

These kinds of activities, researchers said, appear to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease events such as stroke or heart failure by up to 22 per cent, and the risk of heart attack or coronary death, by as much as 42 per cent. The results of the study were published in the journal ‘JAMA Network Open’.

“When we tell people to move with heart, we mean it, and the supporting evidence keeps growing,” said David Goff, the author of the study. “This study suggests that for older women, any and all movement counts towards better cardiovascular health,” he added. 

Goff also said that the findings are consistent with the federal government’s most recent physical activity guidelines, which encourage replacing sedentary behaviour with light physical activity as much as possible.

In the five-year prospective study, researchers followed more than 5,800 women ages 63 to 97 to find out if higher amounts of light physical activity were associated with reduced risks of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease.

Across all racial and ethnic groups, the link was clear, said the study’s author Andrea LaCroix.

“The higher the amount of activity, the lower the risk,” said LaCroix. “And the risk reduction showed regardless of the women’s overall health status, functional ability or even age. In other words, the association with light physical activity was apparent regardless of these other factors,” she added. 

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among American women, and older women suffer profoundly: nearly 68 per cent of those between 60 and 79 have it, as do older Americans overall. Of the estimated 85.6 million adults with at least one type of cardiovascular disease, more than half are age 60 or older.

The current study involved a racially and ethnically diverse group of 5,861 women who were enrolled between 2012 and 2014. None had a history of myocardial infarction or stroke. The women were part of the NHLBI-funded Objective Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health (OPACH), a sub-cohort of the Women’s Health Initiative. (ANI)