Does sitting for long hours, inactive lifestyle increase risk of heart diseases?


What does sitting for long hours and leading an inactive lifestyle do to your heart? The World Health Organization (WHO) had said that physical inactivity is a leading cause of disease and disability. A sedentary lifestyle, which involves a lot of inactivities or a lot of sitting down, doubles the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity, and increases the risks of colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, lipid disorders, depression and anxiety, the WHO says.

Since no one talks about how a sedentary lifestyle brings in changes in your body, it remains one of the insufficiently addressed public health issues that have been left unaddressed.

The coronavirus pandemic was first detected in December 2019 and in March 2020, most countries were locked down to contain the spread of Covid-19. People were locked inside their homes, most stores and factories (barring those that provided the essential services) were shut down, schools/colleges went online, offices were closed and work from home became a new normal. The world also saw bouts of Covid-19 waves in between and the sedentary lifestyle became more common than ever.

Explaining how an inactive lifestyle leads to an increased risk of heart diseases, Dr Talha Meeran, Consultant Cardiologist at Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital and Research Centre in Mumbai said, “When we look at the current disease burden of cardiovascular diseases in the Indian population, comparing it to the epidemiology data from the Western countries, our population’s cardiac health seems to almost be a decade younger.”

“However, there are certain lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, where we are leading in numbers. This has majorly to do with a decline in lifestyle quality with many adopting the worst from the west. Our staple diet is already carbohydrate heavy and that mixed with the uptake in the consumption of fast food seems to impact people across ages, especially the younger generation,” Dr Talha Meeran said.

Dr Meeran said other environmental risk factors such as pollution, stressful work environments, and major life events make one vulnerable to cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and sudden cardiac arrests.

HOW TO AVOID IT?

Dr Talka Meeran says engaging in regular exercise or some form of physical activity reduces the risk of dying prematurely from heart diseases.

Prolonged inactivity makes people more likely to experience cardiac arrest, she said, while regular physical activity has been shown to help protect against first cardiac episode, and will reduce the risk of recurrent cardiac events, the doctor said.

‘NO VIGOROUS EXERCISE IMMEDIATELY’

Dr Talha Meeran also cautioned against vigorous exercise immediately after staying inactive for a longer period of time. Dr Meeran said, “It must be noted that any sudden extreme change can have undesirable impact.”

Dr. Ashutosh Kumar, Sr Consultant Cardiologist/Clinical Director Cardiac Electrophysiology (EP), CARE Hospital, Hyderabad mentioned: “People must understand the importance of constant movement and disconnecting from the constant ramble [of social media]. Let’s take it this way: ‘The more you look at the screen and the more you sit, the more your risk of heart diseases and other problems increases’.”

“Sitting a lot can increase your risks even if you exercise regularly,” Dr Kumar said.

WHAT AN UNHEALTHY LIFESTYLE DOES TO ONE’S BODY?

Dr Kumar said when inactivity is paired with consumption of spicy, junk food and fizzy drinks, they escalate the risk of multiple heart diseases.

He added: “Inactivity paired with consumption of spicy, low fiber junk food and aerated carbonated or fizzy drinks escalate the risk of multiple heart ailments causing a blockage in one’s arteries. Today, due to the rise in sedentary living, cardiovascular disease is one the leading cause of death among young Indians.”

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