Physical inactivity and cardiovascular disease
The increasing urbanization and mechanization of the world has reduced our levels of physical activity. The World Health Organization believes that more than 60% of the global population is not sufficiently active.
If you are physically active you will increase your life span, regardless of any adverse inherited factors. Physical activity, at any age, protects against a multitude of chronic health problems including many forms of cardiovascular disease.
Physical activity protects you by regulating your weight and improving your body’s use of insulin. Being active is beneficial for your blood pressure, blood lipid levels, blood glucose levels, blood clotting factors, the health of your blood vessels and inflammation, which is powerful promoter of cardiovascular disease.
Studies show that doing more than 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate physical activity or an hour of vigorous physical activity every week will reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by about 30%.
Even if you have existing risk factors for cardiovascular disease, if you keep active the evidence suggests that this may lower your risk of premature death compared to inactive people with no risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
But if you do not keep active, the risk to your cardiovascular health is similar to that from hypertension, abnormal blood lipids and obesity.
A middle-aged woman doing less than one hour of exercise per week doubles her risk of dying from a cardiovascular event compared to a physically active woman of the same age.
The good news is that even small increases in physical fitness are associated with a significant reduction in cardiovascular risk, even if you have existing disease.
Physical activity and diabetes
If you develop diabetes you are at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Physical activity is known to reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. This is particularly true if you are at high risk of diabetes.
If you do have diabetes, keeping physically active will better protect your heart.
One study showed that walking at least two hours a week reduced the incidence of premature death from cardiovascular disease by about 50%. In people with diabetes exercise is thought to improve blood glucose control, which reduces the negative impact of diabetes on vascular health.