risk of heart disease

Researchers recently studied if frequent light exercise reduces the risk of heart disease in older women.


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is still the leading cause of mortality around the world. Heart attack and coronary heart disease (CHD) rates are more prevalent among women aged 85 and above. Under the age of 85, heart attacks and CHD are higher among men. With this being said, the risk of heart disease is a large concern among the medical community. It is estimated that older women who participate in regular physical activity will have a decreased risk of CHD and CVD.

In a study published by JAMA, 5,861 women over the age of 63 wore accelerometers on their right hip for seven full days. Each accelerometer was adjusted for age. Throughout the trial, each participant provided updates regarding any medical changes. Women of black (33.5%), white (48.8%), and Hispanic (17.6%) backgrounds participated. All of the women who completed the study had no history of stroke or heart attack. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute funded this particular study.

The findings revealed that there was a strong association of physical activity and a reduced risk of heart disease. There was a 46% reduced risk of CHD in women who carried out moderate to vigorous physical activity, and a 31% reduced risk of overall heart disease. Furthermore, there was a 42% reduced risk of CHD in women who carried out light physical activity, and 22% reduced risk of overall heart disease.

You may think light exercise includes going to the gym; however, completing house chores also counts as light physical activity, such as folding clothes, doing the dishes, dusting, or even going for a walk. It is extremely important that individuals do not remain stationary throughout the day.

This study focused on a topic that is considered understudied. However, the high number of participants made this particular study strong. Another strength was the use of accelerometers to determine light or moderate to vigorous physical activity. Similar studies have relied on the word of participants and/or questionnaires.

Further and longer studies are encouraged to gain information on physical activity and how it may help decrease the risk of heart disease in both men and women. It is highly suggested that older women participate in regular, light physical activity to help reduce their risk of heart disease.

Written by Laura Laroche, HBASc, Medical Writer


  1. LaCroix, Andrea Z, et al. “Association of Light Physical Activity Measured by Accelerometry and Incidence of Coronary Heart Disease and Cardiovascular Disease in Older Women”. JAMA. 2019. 1-14. Online.
  2. Light physical activity linked to lower risk of heart disease in older women. 2019, https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-03/nhla-lpa031419.php, assessed 21 Mar. 2019.
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