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Member Research and Reports

UNC: Study Indicates Sedentary Behavior, Even in Healthy Women, Can Increase Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

In what is the first prospective study on the association between sedentary habits and cardiovascular disease (CVD) specifically in women, researchers found that women who spend more time sedentary, and for longer periods of time, have a significantly greater risk of CVD, independent of other health factors.

Dr. Kelly Evenson, professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, is co-author of the paper, “Sedentary Behavior and Cardiovascular Disease in Older Women,” published online Feb. 19, in the journal Circulation.

CVD is the leading cause of death in the U.S., and though it is commonly thought that time spent sedentary is associated with higher risk for CVD, these results are based mostly on self-reporting.

For this study, Dr. Evenson and team examined data from the Objective Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health (OPACH) Study, in which a group of women, ages 63 to 97, wore accelerometers (devices to measure movement) for four to seven days. They then were followed for CVD for the next 4.9 years.

The team measured time spent sedentary each day, along with the duration of periods of sedentary time. For the cohort of 5,638 women, 545 CVD events were recorded. Data showed that women with the highest sedentary time had higher risk for CVD, and those with both high sedentary time and long sedentary bout durations had significantly higher risk for CVD.

Dr. Evenson said encouraging less total sedentary time and shorter periods of being sedentary in women 63 and older could reduce CVD incidence.

“Based on the results, as well as findings from other studies,” she said, “it would be advantageous for these women to make an effort to spend less time sitting or to interrupt sitting by standing up and moving around regularly.”

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