Women who spent less of their day in sedentary behaviors—sitting or reclining while awake—had a significantly decreased risk of heart disease, but there has been an increase in the incidence of younger women having acute heart attacks in the U.S., according to two studies in a special Go Red for Women issue of the American Heart Association’s (AHA) journal Circulation, published in February, American Heart Month.

This is the third annual issue of the journal dedicated to research about women and cardiovascular health. It includes research articles and studies on topics such as how complicated pregnancies may be associated with a higher risk of death from heart disease and why bystanders may be less likely to perform CPR on women in cardiac arrest and others.

Higher death rates than men

“Women who have had heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular diseases continue to experience disproportionately higher death rates than men. In addition, sex disparities in cardiovascular care show women may be less likely to receive evidence-based treatments than men,” said Joseph A. Hill, M.D., Ph.D., the editor-in-chief of Circulation and professor of medicine and molecular biology at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas.

“We hope that by highlighting some of the best research on cardiovascular disease in women, this issue of Circulation devoted to women’s heart health will ignite more interest in and greater commitment to conducting research in this area and propel relevant stakeholders to team up in the fight against cardiovascular disease in women,” said Hill.

View manuscript here.

Sedentary behavior and cardiovascular disease in older women: The Objective Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health (OPACH) study

In a large prospective study of sedentary time and cardiovascular disease in women, each additional hour/day spent not sitting was associated with a 12 percent lower risk of any cardiovascular disease and a 26 percent lower risk of heart disease in women who were 63-97 years of age. A key finding was that reductions in sedentary time that were spread throughout the day (instead of occurring all at one time) were also associated with lower risk of cardiovascular diseases including heart attacks and strokes.

Researchers studied over 5,000 women in the OPACH Study who had not had a heart attack or stroke before the start of the study. The participants wore accelerometers, devices that measure physical activity, for 4-7 days to objectively evaluate their sedentary time, and their cardiovascular health was tracked for up to 4.9 years. 

The results showed a dose-response association between total daily sedentary time and cardiovascular disease and a dose-response association between the average duration of individual bouts of sedentary time and cardiovascular disease. The results were independent of health status, physical function and CVD risk factors including blood pressure, lipid levels and moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity.

-John Bellettiere,Ph.D., post-doctoral scholar, University of California San Diego, San Diego, California. After Feb. 19, view the manuscript here.

Twenty Year Trends and Sex Differences in Young Adults Hospitalized with Acute Myocardial Infarction: The ARIC Community Surveillance Study

Younger patients, ranging in age from 35 to 54 years of age, accounted for 27 percent of all people hospitalized with heart attacks in the U.S. between 1995-1999, and increased to 32 percent between 2010-2014, with a greater increase among women compared to men. During the study period, heart attack incidence for women rose from 21 percent to 31 percent; for men the incidence increased from 30 percent to 33 percent. 

Compared to young men, young women admitted to hospitals for heart attacks were more likely to be black, have high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, diabetes and other medical conditions that raise the risk of having a heart attack. They were also less likely to receive invasive treatments to open clogged arteries or receive guideline recommended medications such as non-aspirin blood thinners, beta-blockers, cholesterol lowering drugs and therapies to reduce the risk of another heart attack.

-Melissa Caughey, Ph.D. instructor; University of North Carolina. After Feb. 19, view the manuscript here and an accompanying editorial here.