Research with middle-aged volunteers found that each additional hour
of sedentary time was linked to 12 percent higher odds of having
calcium buildup in the coronary arteries, an early sign of coronary
“This is one of the first studies to help tease out the ways in
which sedentary time relates to heart disease risk, by evaluating
this early marker of atherosclerosis in the heart arteries,” said
study coauthor Julia Kozlitina of the University of Texas
Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
The researchers analyzed data on more than 2,000 participants in the
Dallas Heart Study who had measures of physical activity based on
wearable tracking devices and had coronary artery calcium scans.
Participants’ average age was 50 years old and about half were
black. Overall, the volunteers spent between one hour and 11 hours
per day sedentary, and spent between zero and 200 minutes a day
doing moderate to vigorous physical activity, with an average of 29
About one-quarter of people in the sample had some detectable
coronary artery calcium, Kozlitina said.
Participants who were the most sedentary tended to be older, to have
diabetes, high blood pressure and higher body mass index. They also
were more likely to have coronary calcium, the study team reports in
the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Accounting for age and other factors, the researchers linked extra
hours of sedentary time to higher risk of having coronary artery
calcium. Time spent exercising was not tied to the likelihood of
coronary calcium, however.
A single week of physical activity monitoring may not be
representative of lifetime exercise habits, and can’t necessarily
prove that being sedentary causes coronary artery calcium to
accumulate, only that the two factors are linked, the authors point
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“The most interesting finding from this study is that sedentary
time, but not moderate to vigorous physical activity, was associated
with coronary artery calcium,” said Qibin Qi of the Albert Einstein
College of Medicine in New York, who was not part of the study.
“Besides exercise in the gym and a walk during lunch break, breaks
in sedentary behavior might help,” he said by email. “That means
getting up from your desk job to move around once in a while (e.g.,
get a cup of tea) could be beneficial. Future studies will need to
look at the optimal length and frequency of breaks from sedentary
Exercising and being sedentary may both influence cardiovascular
disease, but by different pathways, Qi told Reuters Health.
Maintaining a healthy diet, not smoking and keeping alcohol intake
light or moderate also help prevent cardiovascular disease, Qi said.
“Try to take a one to five minute break every hour; stand up; walk
up a flight of stairs instead of taking the elevator; etc.,”
Kozlitina said by email. “All of this helps in a small way.”
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1Suns3o Journal of the American College of
Cardiology: Cardiovascular Imaging, online April 13, 2016.
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