A recent study links sitting for many hours per day to increased coronary artery calcification, a reported marker of subclinical heart disease that can heighten the risk of heart attack.

A news release from the American College of Cardiology indicates that the study found no link between coronary artery classification and the amount of exercise an individual gets, suggesting sitting too much may have a greater impact than exercise on this particular measure of heart health. The results also indicate exercise may not entirely counteract the negative effects of a mostly sedentary lifestyle on coronary artery calcium.

Jacquelyn Kulinski, MD, lead study author, and assistant professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, notes in the release that while it is clear that exercise plays a key role in reducing cardiovascular risk and improving fitness levels, “this study suggests that reducing how much you sit every day may represent a more novel, companion strategy (in addition to exercise) to help reduce your cardiovascular risk.”

The release notes that study also offers a different perspective on sedentary behavior, as it links sitting with an early marker to heart disease, paving the way for future research that could assess whether changing daily habits could potentially reverse the damage before full-blown heart disease is developed.

According to the release, researchers analyzed heart scans and physical activity records of more than 2,000 adults living in Dallas. The researchers say that each hour of sedentary time per day on average was linked to a 14% increase in coronary artery calcification burden. The association was reportedly independent of exercise activity and other conventional heart disease risk factors.

“I think the study offers a promising message. Reducing the amount of time you sit by even an hour or two a day could have a significant and positive impact on your future cardiovascular health,” Kulinski said.

During the study, the release adds researchers used an accelerometer to measure how long participants were sedentary and how much they exercised.

The results suggest that participants sat for a little more than 5 hours per day on average, with a range of 2 to 12 hours. More sedentary participants were more likely to be older, have higher body mass index, and have diabetes or hypertension. The analysis accounted for these factors, as well as for income, marital status, smoking, cholesterol, and other demographic and health-related factors. The release states that individuals with known cardiovascular disease were excluded from the analysis.

Source(s): American College of Cardiology