Men who spend more than five hours sitting every day when they aren’t working are more likely to suffer heart failure than those who sit for shorter periods. Even those who exercise regularly face the threat of a heart attack and even death if they sit around a lot.
Called “sitting disease” by some experts, it doesn’t matter where they sit and what they do, sitting in itself can lead to the heart failing to pump the blood in the body adequately. While not necessarily fatal, heart failure commonly leads to severe symptoms including breathlessness, extreme tiredness, and swelling around the ankles.
If men don’t become more active and less sedentary in behavior, they will put themselves at risk of joining the 34 percent statistic that currently experiences heart failure.
This harsh warning comes out of new research undertaken by scientists in California over a period of up to 10 years. A total of 82,695 men from various backgrounds and racial and ethnic groups, all over the age of 45 (but mostly about 58), were studied.
None had a history of heart failure, but during the research period, 3,473 were diagnosed.
The report, under the leadership of Dr. Deborah Rohm Young from Kaiser Permanente in Pasadena, is titled Effects of Physical Activity and Sedentary Time on the Risk of Heart Failure, and has been published by the American Heart Association.
It set out to identify how lifestyle behavior can impact on the extent or frequency of heart failure. The ultimate finding was that the time spent sitting and the level of physical activity undertaken are probably the most appropriate “intervention targets” that will prevent heart failure.
More specifically, men who spent at least five hours sitting, outside working hours, every day were 34 percent more at risk of developing heart failure than those who only spent a maximum of two hours sitting before or after work. This percentage was not affected by the amount of exercise these men had. However, the researchers did find that men who were not physically active (or hardly did any exercise at all) were 52 percent at risk of developing heart failure. The percentage of those who were active (48) was not affected by the amount of time they spent sitting out of work hours.
This means that men who don’t exercise regularly, and who sit a lot, are most at risk of suffering heart failure. The threat really is something that should be taken seriously.
Remarkably, researchers found that even those men who suffered from coronary artery disease and hypertension, when they sat less and exercised regularly, presented a low risk of heart failure.
Heart Failure Statistics
About 5.7 million people in America are affected by heart failure, a very serious cardiovascular disease. Every year more than 600,000 people in the US are affected.
Since about 20 percent of all adults (men and women) are likely to be diagnosed with heart failure at some time in their lives, by the year 2030 more than 8 million people could be living with the disease in the US alone.
In 2010 the medical costs associated with heart failure were around $20.9 billion; by 2030 they are projected to more than double to about $53.1 billion.
According to this recent research study, heart failure is more common amongst Black and Hispanic communities, and men are more at risk than women.
The Effect of Lifestyle on Heart Failure
The risks of a number of conditions that are associated with heart failure, including obesity, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and myocardial infarction, are known to be reduced by regular exercise and physical activity. Even though there have been very few studies on the effect of physical activity on heart failure, those that have been conducted reveal that regular exercise “may be protective.”
There is also strong evidence that too much sitting may put people at risk of cardiovascular issues and “overall mortality” or death. However, until this study was undertaken, it had not been established how or to what degree sedentary behavior (or too much sitting around) might lead to heart failure.
The large sample size of the research study, coupled with the fact that it was carried out over a lengthy period of time, with up to 10 years of contact and follow-up, resulted in more than 600,000 total person-years that scientists could examine in relation to heart failure.
Since very few of the men who participated showed any evidence of coronary heart disease (CHD), researchers were not able to determine the impact of increased periods of sitting for those with or without CHD. They noted however that future studies on this subject were needed.
While other studies have found that non-smokers of normal weight who exercise regularly are more likely to suffer heart failure if they already suffer from hypertension, this study involved the control of lifestyle factors that might produce differing results.
Having established that it is important to be physically active and to lead a “non-sedentary lifestyle,” to reduce the risk of heart failure, researchers urged clinicians to discuss these risks with their patients. The very clear message was that clinicians are in a position to present a powerful argument to their patients, and they can offer counseling that could lead many more people to lead lifestyles that are physically active. They should also advise patients that it is imperative “to sit less and move more,” because men who sit a lot are facing the potentially deadly threat of heart failure.
By Penny Swift