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Study Suggests that Physical Inactivity is as Dangerous as Smoking for Heart Disease, Stroke

Feb2020image006An extensive examination of an ethnically diverse sample of nearly 1 million Kaiser Permanente patients compared the individual contributions of significant risk factors for heart attacks and stroke and found physical inactivity carried a higher-than-expected risk.

In the study, published in February 2020 in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, researchers compared six of the American Heart Association’s (AHA) “Simple 7” cardiovascular health risk factors to determine their relative associations with coronary heart disease and stroke in a large population.

“Heart disease remains the number 1 killer and stroke the number five killer in the United States,” said lead author Jamal S. Rana, MD, Ph.D., chief of cardiology at Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center and adjunct researcher at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research. “Lack of physical activity carries 65% excess risk, similar to that of smoking or poor cholesterol levels.”

Researchers examined the patients' blood pressure, smoking, physical activity, body mass index, total cholesterol, and blood glucose.

“It speaks to the strength of our integrated healthcare system that we were able to harness data from physical activity to laboratory blood tests to explore comparative risk at such a large scale," Dr. Rana said.

The excess health risk associated with physical inactivity ranged across ethnicities from 43% to 73% for combined heart disease and stroke. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate found that the percentage of Americans who are physically inactive ranges from 17% to 48%, depending on the state or territory where they live.

To learn more about the findings in the study, visit Kaiser Permanente’s site dedicated to the report’s findings.

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