In the US, heart disease is the leading cause of death, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CD) warn that people of all ages and backgrounds are at risk for this condition.

Research recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that, from age 30, physical inactivity has the biggest impact on this risk in women.

The researchers used data on over 32,000 participants in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, which tracks the long-term health of women born in certain spans between 1921 and 1978.

For this study, the researchers wanted to compare estimates of the main four risk factors of heart disease:

*  High body mass index (BMI)

*  Smoking

*  High blood pressure

*  Physical inactivity

The researchers found that smoking prevalence fell from 28% in women 22-27 years old to 5% in those between the ages of 73 and 78. However, inactivity prevalence and high blood pressure increased across their lifespans, from age 22 to 90, and overweight prevalence increased between the ages of 22 and 64, declining after those ages. The team then combined prevalence with relative risk data – which tells the likelihood that a woman with a specific risk factor will develop heart disease, compared with a woman without that risk factor.

After combining the data, the researchers found that, until the age of 30, smoking had the greatest influence on heart disease risk. Between the ages of 30 and 90, however, low physical activity levels had the greatest effect on higher levels of population risk, compared with any of the other risk factors, the team found.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that all adults get 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week, and the researchers say if every woman between 30 and 90 were to reach this recommendation, then more than 2,000 middle-aged and older women’s lives would be saved in Australia each year. Check with your healthcare provider for your physical activity recommendation.   5/9/14



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