Sedentary lifestyle associated with coronary artery calcium, researchers find

April 27, 2016

Cardiologists at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found that sedentary behavior is associated with increased amounts of calcium deposits in heart arteries, which in turn is associated with a higher risk of heart attack.

Researchers at UT Southwestern have previously shown that excessive sitting is associated with reduced cardiorespiratory fitness and a higher risk of disease. The latest research - part of UT Southwestern's Dallas Heart Study - points to a likely mechanism by which sitting leads to .

"This is one of the first studies to show that sitting time is associated with early markers of atherosclerosis buildup in the heart," said senior author Dr. Amit Khera, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Director of the Preventive Cardiology Program. "Each additional hour of daily sedentary time is associated with a 12 percent higher likelihood of ."

The researchers concluded that reducing daily "sitting time" by even 1 to 2 hours per day could have a significant and positive impact on future cardiovascular health, and called for additional studies into novel interventions to reduce sedentary behaviors. For the many individuals with a desk job that requires them to sit for large portions of the day, they suggested taking frequent breaks.

"Try a one to five minute break every hour. Stand up. Walk up a flight of stairs. All of this helps in a small way. Then get in your strenuous exercise in the evening as well," said Dr. Julia Kozlitina, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Clinical Sciences and with the Eugene McDermott Center for Human Growth and Development.

In some individuals, cholesterol builds up inside the walls of the arteries supplying blood to the heart in mounds called cholesterol plaques. Over time, calcium accumulates in these plaques. The amount of can be measured through CT scanning and directly correlates with the amount of cholesterol plaque, as well as with .

In this study, the researchers asked some 2,000 participants in the Dallas Heart Study to wear a device that measured their activity levels for a week. Participants spent an average of 5.1 hours sitting per day and an average of 29 minutes in moderate to vigorous physical activity each day.

"We observed a significant association between increased sedentary time and coronary artery calcium," said Dr. Khera, who holds the 2013 Dallas Heart Ball Chair in Hypertension and Heart Disease. "These associations were independent of exercise, traditional factors such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and socioeconomic factors. This research suggests that increased subclinical atherosclerosis characterized by calcium deposition is one of the mechanisms through which increases cardiovascular risk and that this risk is distinct from the protective power of exercise."

The Dallas Heart Study, which has been under way for 16 years with funding from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, is an ongoing epidemiology study that has yielded a plethora of research and a much-heralded new class of cholesterol-lowering drugs. It has involved more than 6,000 participants, has led to more than 200 published papers, identified two genes associated with , and led to a breakthrough drug class for lowering cholesterol called PCSK9-inhibitors. Among other findings from the study: Hispanics are at higher risk of developing fatty liver disease and C-reactive protein levels vary between men and women.

Phase III of the Dallas Heart Study, under the direction of Dr. Khera, is now in the works, with general scientific focus on healthy aging, using imaging and sophisticated testing to look at early markers of age-related transitions. The goal is to determine how to best preserve health and modify decline with time.

The current study appears online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Imaging.

Explore further: Study bolsters link between heart disease, excessive sitting

Related Stories

Study bolsters link between heart disease, excessive sitting

March 5, 2015
Sitting for many hours per day is associated with increased coronary artery calcification, a marker of subclinical heart disease that can increase the risk of a heart attack, according to research scheduled for presentation ...

Number of births may affect mom's future heart health

March 23, 2015
Women who give birth to four or more children are more likely to have cardiovascular changes that can be early indicators of heart disease than women who have fewer children, new research by UT Southwestern Medical Center ...

New hope for improved heart disease detection and treatment in type 2 diabetics

February 1, 2016
With approximately two-thirds of deaths among people with type 2 diabetes related to cardiovascular disease, a new report holds hope for improving the treatment of heart disease for one of the country's and the world's most ...

Heart disease patients who sit a lot have worse health even if they exercise

November 25, 2015
Patients with heart disease who sit a lot have worse health even if they exercise, reveals research from the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, and published today in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention.

New measurement of HDL cholesterol function provides information about cardiovascular risk

November 18, 2014
Groundbreaking research from UT Southwestern Medical Center shows that cholesterol efflux capacity (cholesterol efflux), which measures HDL cholesterol function, appears to be a superior indicator of cardiovascular risk and ...

Applying new cholesterol guidelines to a patient population reduces heart attacks, strokes, study finds

August 18, 2014
A study from UT Southwestern researchers found that recently introduced cholesterol guidelines would significantly reduce new cardiovascular events, when compared to treatment based on previous cholesterol guidelines.

Recommended for you

Low-salt and heart-healthy dash diet as effective as drugs for some adults with high blood pressure

November 22, 2017
A study of more than 400 adults with prehypertension, or stage 1 high blood pressure, found that combining a low-salt diet with the heart-healthy DASH diet substantially lowers systolic blood pressure—the top number in ...

Stroke patients may have more time to get treatment, study finds

November 22, 2017
Patients and doctors long have relied on a simple rule of thumb for seeking care after an ischemic stroke: "Time is brain."

Cases of heart failure continue to rise; poorest people worst affected

November 22, 2017
The number of people being diagnosed with heart failure in the UK continues to rise as a result of demographic changes common to many developed countries, new research by The George Institute for Global Health at the University ...

Some cancer therapies may provide a new way to treat high blood pressure

November 20, 2017
Drugs designed to halt cancer growth may offer a new way to control high blood pressure (hypertension), say Georgetown University Medical Center investigators. The finding could offer a real advance in hypertension treatment ...

Could this protein protect people against coronary artery disease?

November 17, 2017
The buildup of plaque in the heart's arteries is an unfortunate part of aging. But by studying the genetic makeup of people who maintain clear arteries into old age, researchers led by UNC's Jonathan Schisler, PhD, have identified ...

Raising 'good' cholesterol fails to protect against heart disease

November 16, 2017
Raising so-called 'good' cholesterol by blocking a key protein involved in its metabolism does not protect against heart disease or stroke, according to a large genetic study of 150,000 Chinese adults published in the journal ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.