Women not exercising put heart at greater risk
More must be done to encourage exercise in women over the age of 30, new research has indicated.
Experts found that physical inactivity is potentially the greatest risk factor in developing heart disease for these women.
Other well-known risk factors for heart disease include a high body mass index (BMI), high blood pressure and smoking, but physical inactivity was found to carry the greatest risk.
The study, published in the 'British Journal of Sports Medicine', examined thousands of women taking part in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health.
Researchers looked at smoking rates, prevalence of inactivity and high blood pressure and whether or not the women were overweight.
After analysing the risk factors, they found that from age 30 until the late 80s, low physical activity levels were responsible for higher levels of population risk than any of the other factors.
The authors estimated that in Australia, where 1,200 middle-aged and 9,100 older women die from heart disease each year, the lives of around 2,600 women could be saved every year if women did the recommended amount of physical activity – 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity weekly.
Commenting on the study, cardiac expert Thembi Nkala said: "We already know physical inactivity is a major risk factor for heart disease. Interestingly, this study shows its dominant influence on heart disease among women, and suggests a greater need to promote regular physical activity among this group.
"It's important to remember that heart disease is linked to other factors such as smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The more risk factors you have, the greater your chance of heart disease. Speak to your GP if you have any concerns about your heart health."