Most people know that maintaining a healthy weight is a key ingredient for lowering our risk for heart disease.
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But new research is showing that heart-healthy habits can’t be measured in weight alone.
The study looked at data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for adults between the ages of 40 and 79 who had body mass indexes (BMI) that ranged from normal to overweight.
They found those who had a healthy BMI (18.5-24.9), but were sedentary and had larger waistlines, had a heightened risk for heart-related events, similar to their overweight counterparts.
Erik Van Iterson, Ph.D., clinical exercise physiologist and director of cardiac rehabilitation, did not take part in the study, but says it shows that when it comes to looking at our risk for heart disease, it’s important to understand the day-to-day impact of lifestyle habits in addition to the number on the scale.
“It’s critically important to be physically active on a consistent basis, and have less sedentary time – it’s about more than just body weight, or BMI,” he says. “It really is a cumulative effect of how all of those aspects relate together for a heart-healthy lifestyle.”
Dr. Van Iterson recommends distributing physical activity across the week and making a plan to get more movement out of every day.
“You can think about stealing exercise when you can throughout your day,” he suggests. “If you were to work a basic eight-hour day, and you were to walk around for five minutes each hour, you would essentially accumulate close to 40 to 50 minutes of walking exercise without actually having to block out that time.”
The bottom line, Dr. Van Iterson says, is to be aware that a heart-healthy lifestyle isn’t just based on one number or one variable – it’s a mindset, and we have to be consistent.
He suggests taking small and progressive steps to accomplish many things together, like proper diet, exercise and less time being sedentary.
Complete results of the study can be found in The American Journal of Cardiology.