Health Notes: Preventable heart disease kills one in three, 10-minute exercise sessions can lower blood pressure

This is another in an occasional series of SNEWS® Health Notes reports that will take a look at one or more recent pieces of research studies or reports about health, fitness, physical activity and wellness. We'll focus on news you can use and present results in plain English, without all the techno-garble that can make many research studies seem overwhelming to read, let alone understand and explain to somebody else. Let us know what you think, what you would like to see, and how you'd like to see it!
Author:
Publish date:

This is another in an occasional series of SNEWS® Health Notes reports that will take a look at one or more recent pieces of research studies or reports about health, fitness, physical activity and wellness. We'll focus on news you can use and present results in plain English, without all the techno-garble that can make many research studies seem overwhelming to read, let alone understand and explain to somebody else. Let us know what you think, what you would like to see, and how you'd like to see it!

>> Lack of physical activity part of underlying cause of increasing cardiovascular disease
Cardiovascular disease is the underlying cause of death in more than one in three of all deaths in the United States, the American Heart Association has reported from its most recent data. And factors include ones, such as high blood pressure or obesity, which could be helped by physical activity.

The statistical update takes a look at deaths in 2003, the most recent data available, and shows that 36.3 percent are attributed in some way to cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) include heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, heart failure and congenital cardiovascular defects. Counting only heart disease, this has been the leading cause of death in the United States every year since 1900 except during the 1918 flu epidemic.

Interestingly, different U.S. regions fare differently. Minnesota has the lowest rate of CVD deaths (221.2 per 100,000 population), while Mississippi has the highest (405.9). For coronary heart disease deaths, Hawaii has the lowest rate (96.0), while Oklahoma carries the highest (228.1). New York has the lowest state death rate for stroke (35.0), but is second highest in coronary heart disease deaths (213.4), just behind Oklahoma.
The update also shows regional differences in the number of cardiovascular operations and procedures. There were about twice as many angioplasties in the South (634,000) compared with the Northeast (227,000), Midwest (333,000) and West (350,000).

"These regions aren't all the same size, so we can't draw any conclusions on rate of procedures," explained Wayne Rosamond, Ph.D., chair of the association's Statistics Committee. "However, the raw number is important because it tells us the burden in the population and the public health impact."

Obesity and overweight is no small contributing factor. According to the Surgeon General, overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight adults. A study published in 2003 showed that overweight and obesity were associated with large decreases in life expectancy. For example, overweight 40-year-old female nonsmokers lost 3.3 years, while their male counterparts lost 3.1 years. In obese 40-year-old nonsmokers, women lost 7.1 years and men lost 5.8 years. The rates of overweight and obesity have increased among adults and children.

In addition, each year over $33 billion in medical costs due to heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes are attributed to poor nutrition.

"There's still room for improvement," Rosamond said. "Because many cardiovascular risk factors are preventable or easily controlled through healthy lifestyle choices, changes in lifestyle behaviors such as healthy diet and exercise could reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease."

So what? The fitness industry has a responsibility to do more than sell equipment that has the prettiest blinking lights, but also must take the moment of interaction with the public at points of sale to educate about the benefits of exercise and a general healthy lifestyle.

For the scientifically minded: The report has detailed data on the underlying causes as well as how they relate to U.S. regions. They were printed in the American Heart Association's journal, Circulation, and can be found by clicking here.

>> "Snacking on exercise" could be just as healthful as one big meal
We've heard it before…. If someone needs to lower blood pressure or improve other health factors, shorter sessions of activity several times a day will also do the trick. OK, so this may go against the grain we have all been taught -- at least 20 minutes and preferably 30 to 45 minutes at a shot -- but for those non-exercisers who populate most of the world, let's not forget the lesson that less can be more and something is better than nothing.

One recent study was in the New Zealand Medical Journal that showed four, 10-minute bouts of brisk walking were just as effective as 40 continuous minutes in lowering blood pressure in hypertensive patients. In the study, groups of those with hypertension were put into one of three groups -- four, 10-minute walks; one 40-minute walk; or no walking. The interventions lasted only four days each, with each group rotated through the groups with 10 days between each. Blood pressure in those in the first two groups was lowered nearly identically, but not at all in the no-walking group.

So what? Avoid scaring off newbie exercisers with prescriptions of exercise lasting 45 minutes or longer when 10-minute sessions -- even one or two to start -- can be less intimidating and begin to gain some of the same results.

For the scientifically minded: The abstract for the article in the June 2006 journal (Volume 119, No. 1235) can be found by clicking here.

Related