If you're a woman in midlife, you have easy and free access to a great way to reduce your risks of heart disease and diabetes. This applies even during menopause and after it, when chances of these diseases become more likely. (Cardiovascular disease is the #1 killer of women in industrialized nations.) The method works independent of your use of hormone therapy.
The new evidence comes from a painstaking study of 300 women by physical therapist Veronica Colpani and MD/PhDs Karen Oppermann and Poli Mara Spritzer. The trio of researchers took anthropometric and metabolic profiles of each subject and then assessed her usual physical activity for 7 days with a digital pedometer.
"Habitual physical activity, defined as any form of body movement with energy expenditure above resting levels, may improve health parameters," the researchers stated. Even after adjustment for age, menopause status, smoking, and hormone therapy, inactivity presents a higher risk of overweight/obesity and high waist circumference than daily activity amounting to 6,000 steps or more. Activities could include non-standing exercise measured in step equivalents.
The inactive women also had a higher risk of diabetes mellitus, which currently affects about 11% of U.S. adults. A third of diabetes cases are invisible--neither physician-diagnosed nor under treatment.
The report by Colpani, Opperman, and Spritzer adds more population-specific results to the half-century of occupational and leisure-time activity summarized by the U.S. Councils on Clinical Cardiology and Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism. These results have repeatedly documented a lower incidence of coronary artery disease in persons who are physically active and fit.
Physical activity helps treat already established conditions such as elevated blood pressure, insulin resistance and glucose intolerance, elevated triglyceride concentrations, low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) concentrations, and obesity, which can all contribute to diabetes and cardiovascular risk.
Some reports have linked low exercise levels to a sedentary modern lifestyle. "The major behavioral causal factor in the increasing prevalence of diabetes is low levels of activity-related energy expenditure, brought about by technological advances that have largely engineered physical activity out of daily life."
A medical study just released last week adds that although 6,000 steps might be the ideal amount of physical exercise, any amount of habitual physical activity is better than none.
Based in Chicago, Sandy Dechert has been covering the 2012-2013 influenza epidemic for Examiner.com. She also reported top women's health news of 2012, including prevention issues, infectious disease, and the iatrogenic fungal meningitis outbreak.
If this article interests you, please tweet or "like" it and/or leave me a question or comment! Discussion is usually the best way to learn. I hope you will keep up with the most current articles from this Chicago Examiner: just click "Subscribe." Examiner will email you when I publish new articles. All pictures and quotations here remain the property of their respective owners. If anyone seeks further credit for any item, please email your request. To repost this article in part or completely, contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet @sandydec. Thanks for reading!