Heart Disease Risk For Inactive Women After Age 30
May 10, 2014

Inactivity, Not Smoking, Biggest Heart Disease Risk Factor In Women Over 30

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A lack of physical activity is the single largest cause of heart disease in women over the age of 30 – trumping even obesity, smoking and high blood pressure, according to research published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

In fact, according to Sophie Borland of the Daily Mail, the authors of the study found that inactive women in their thirties or older were nearly 50 percent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease in their lifetimes in comparison to those who regularly get at least 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise each week.

As part of the study, researchers from the University of Queensland reviewed the medical records and lifestyle information of over 32,000 women between the ages of 22 and 90. Using that data, they developed a mathematical formula to determine their risk of heart disease based on four different risk factors.

The study discovered that females who were in their early 30s and had been classified as inactive were almost 50 percent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, while those in their late 40s were just 38 percent more likely and those in their late 50s were only 28 percent more likely, Borland said. In comparison, smokers in their 30s faced a 40 percent increased risk, and those who were obese faced a 30 percent increased risk.

Prior to the age of 30, smoking was found to be the primary contributor to increased risk of cardiovascular disease with a population attributable risk (PAR) rating of 59 percent. After that age, however, preventing women from being too inactive could save over 2,000 middle-aged or older women each year in Australia alone.

Lead investigator Wendy Brown told Borland that a lack of exercise was the “Cinderella risk factor” when it comes to heart disease, and the authors added their findings demonstrate that “national programs for the promotion and maintenance of physical activity across the adult lifespan, but especially in young adulthood, deserve to be a much higher public health priority for women than they are now.”

“We need a lot more effort to keep middle-aged women active and then keep them active into old age,” Brown, who works with the university’s center for research on exercise, physical activity and health, told Helen Briggs of BBC News. “If you can do at least 30 minutes and preferably 45 minutes a day, you'll see huge improvements in your health and reduce your risk of heart disease by half.”

She and her colleagues concluded that the different factors which increase a person’s risk of developing heart disease change throughout the course of a person’s life. While they emphasize that efforts to curb smoking in teenagers and young adults are important, they also concluded that there should be a greater emphasis on the importance of physical activity, which is often overlooked with the focus on the obesity epidemic.

“Interestingly, this study shows its dominant influence on heart disease amongst women, and suggests a greater need to promote regular physical activity amongst this group,” Thembi Nkala, a senior cardiac nurse with the British Heart Foundation, told Briggs.

“It's important to remember that heart disease is linked to other factors such as smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol,” she added. “It's essential to manage these too, as the more risk factors you have, the greater your chance of heart disease.”