Sitting Too Much Raises Men's Heart Failure Risk

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By Don Rauf

While sitting may not seem harmful, a sedentary lifestyle may raise the risk of heart disease and premature death. Inactivity may also increase the chances of heart failure in men.

Heart failure affects an estimated 5.7 million Americans, and there are more than 550,000 new cases each year, according to the American Heart Association. Previous research has shown that regular physical activity lowers the risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure and diabetes.

A new study further supports the benefits of exercise — finding that high levels of physical activity and low levels of inactivity may prevent heart failure in men.

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Deborah Rohm Young, PhD, senior scientist at Kaiser Permanente in Pasadena, California, led research on 82,695 racially diverse men, ages 45 to 69 from the California Men’s Health Study.

All participants began the study without prevalent heart failure. Heart failure can be a misleading term because it does not mean that the heart has stopped working, but rather the heart muscle is not pumping enough blood to keep up with the body's needs.

Data was collected on their exercise levels and evaluated in terms of metabolic equivalent of tasks (METs). This is a measure of the body’s energy use.

After following these individuals for up to 10 years, scientists found 3,473 men to be diagnosed with heart failure. Based on the results, Dr. Young and her colleagues discovered that men who didn’t exercise much were 52 percent more likely to develop heart failure than participants who had consistently high levels of physical activity.

Men who sat for at least five hours a day and got little exercise had more than double the heart failure risk of men who were very physically active and sat for two hours or less a day.

Even if participants exercised regularly, sitting had a negative influence on their health. No matter how much they exercised, men who spent five or more hours a day sitting outside of work were 34 percent more likely to develop heart failure compared to those who sat two hours a day or less, according to the investigation.

The authors noted study limitations of not including women and relying on self-reported physical activity.

Dr. Young said in a press release that people should follow the American Heart Association recommendation of getting at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity to reduce the risk for heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases.

Sarah Samaan, MD, cardiologist and physician partner at the Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas, told dailyRx News, “Congestive heart failure can be caused by high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, stiffness of the heart muscle or weakness of the heart muscle. Exercise helps to prevent and limit all of these conditions.”

The idea of exercising should not be intimidating, added Dr. Samaan.

“Exercise can be as simple and easy as getting up and walking 20 to 30 minutes daily,” she said. “It's also important to build some active time into the day. Instead of phoning a colleague at the other end of the building, get up and walk to his or her desk. When possible, spend more of the day standing than sitting. Limit screen time, including time spent in front of the TV or surfing the web. Other studies have found that the more TV someone watches, the more likely they are to develop heart disease and diabetes.”

The study was published on January 21 in American Heart Association journal Circulation: Heart Failure. Research was supported by a grant from the California Cancer Research Program and the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Community Benefit Program.

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