Having a healthy body weight is not enough to avoid cardiovascular disease, according to a new study conducted by UF researchers.
A study posted online in The American Journal of Cardiology in early January found that 30 percent of healthy, normal-weight adults aged 40-79 with a body mass index of 18.5-29.9 kg per m2 in the U.S. who partake in less than 150 minutes of physical activity per week have the same risk of heart attack or stroke as those who are overweight, said Arch Mainous III, the department chair of the UF College of Public Health & Health Professions and lead investigator of the study.
The full study is expected to be in print later this year, Mainous said.
Four other researchers and Mainous gathered data from a survey by the National Center for Health Statistics focusing on adults who did not have any previous diagnosis of coronary heart disease, stroke or heart attack, Mainous said.
The group of adults in the category who exercise less than the recommended levels had higher levels of belly fat, shortness of breath upon exertion and unhealthy waist circumference in comparison to those who exercise at the recommended amount, Mainous said.
“You may be at risk,” Mainous said. “It is not inevitable. You can stop it.”
The research can be translated into risk scores as described by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, which is the calculated risk of having a heart attack or stroke within the next decade, Mainous said.
Age, sex, race, blood pressure, various types of cholesterol levels, a family history of diabetes, smoking history and types of medications or treatments a person is on are all components to calculate a risk score, Mainous said. Scores over 7.5 percent are considered high-risk.
Adding a mile to walk in the morning or taking the stairs are quick fixes a person can do to lead a more active lifestyle, said Lisa Merlo, UF College of Medicine’s director of wellness programs. UF students and faculty who have made simple changes like these have felt better mentally and physically, Merlo said.
“Faculty and students at the university are at the same risk because of the workload upon them,” Merlo said.
Staying fit is a top priority for Conner Dowd, a 21-year-old UF applied physiology and kinesthesiology senior. He wants to remain active, so he can become a Marine Corps officer and live a long life.
“Whenever I have kids, I want to be able to play with them,” Dowd said. “Fitness now, protect health for later.”