Can Sitting Too Much Cause Your Heart Attack?
Sitting most of the day can harm cardiovascular health, study finds. Cleveland Clinic offers creative strategies to integrate more activity into your day to reduce your overall risk of heart disease.
How many hours do you sit a day?
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The more hours you spend sedentary, the higher your risk of calcified arteries and atherosclerosis, a risk factor for heart disease, according to a recent study reported at the American College of Cardiology 2015 Scientific Sessions.
In the study, each hour of sitting correlated to a 14 percent increase in a middle-aged person’s coronary artery calcium score, without relation to traditional risk factors, including physical activity level.
The study authors suggest that hours spent sitting should be looked at independently of the amount of physical activity as a risk factor for heart disease. However, Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Maan Fares, MD, who did not participate in the research, observes that further study is needed regarding time spent sitting as a separate risk factor.
“The data once again confirms the benefit of physical exercise in reducing the burden of coronary artery disease,” Dr. Fares says. Exercise level is one of the most dramatically modifiable risk factors that individuals can change to affect their overall risk level. He offers several strategies to add more activity into your day:
Dr. Fares suggests that to avoid sitting for prolonged periods, consider modifications to working environments and habits, being sure to take mini breaks throughout the day of sitting at a desk. Quick walks or a standing or treadmill desk offer alternatives to constant sitting. Taking the stairs and walking meetings are other ways to insert more movement into the work day.
Incorporating some time in your day to workout at home or go to the gym before or after your workday will help offset the sitting you may do throughout the day. Instead of taking the car to work, turn your commute into a workout by biking to work.
A pedometer or heart rate monitor can help you develop an accurate awareness of activity levels and encourage more exercise, such as walking, throughout the day.
Encouraging good exercise habits for children can set lifelong habits, and family activities get everyone moving.
“Physical activity has a multilayered benefit, possibly including anti-inflammatory processes, increasing coronary artery diameter and circulation, improving plaque stability and reducing cardiac disease risk,” he concludes.