Physical Activity and Vascular Disease in UK Women | Journal Scan

Study Questions:

What is the frequency and duration of physical activities that reduces the incidence of specific types of vascular disease?


Data from the Million Women Study were used for the present analysis. Women who attended National Health Service (NHS) breast cancer screening clinics in the United Kingdom between 1996 and 2001 were recruited for this study. Over 1.3 million women with no prior history of vascular disease were asked about their physical activity habits including frequency. Physical activity was again assessed 3 years after recruitment. Data on specific outcomes including coronary heart disease (CHD), cerebrovascular disease, and venous thromboembolic events (VTE) were assessed through the NHS report of hospital admissions and death records.


Of the women included, 49,113 women experienced a first CHD event, 17,822 women experienced a first cerebrovascular event, and 14,550 women experienced a first VTE event over 9 years of follow-up. At baseline, the average age of the cohort was 55.9 years, and mean body mass index (BMI) was 26 kg/m2. Women who reported moderate levels of physical activity were a lower risk for all three types of vascular events. In contrast, women who reported strenuous physical activity on a daily basis had a higher risk for these three types of vascular events compared to women who reported strenuous physical activity 2-3 times per week.


The authors concluded that moderate physical activity is associated with a lower risk for CHD, cerebrovascular disease, and VTE. However, further risk reduction when frequency of activity was increased was not apparent.


As expected, this study observed that regular physical activity lowers risk for vascular events compared to inactivity. However, dose and frequency of activity remain unclear. These data suggest that it may be good to take a day (or two) off from vigorous activity, or perhaps daily moderate activity is the best. Given the advances in sensor technology including activity trackers, studies in the near future may shed light on the questions of frequency and intensity of physical activity.

Clinical Topics: Diabetes and Cardiometabolic Disease, Prevention, Pulmonary Hypertension and Venous Thromboembolism, Sports and Exercise Cardiology, Vascular Medicine, Atherosclerotic Disease (CAD/PAD), Exercise

Keywords: Vascular Diseases, Coronary Artery Disease, Coronary Disease, Physical Fitness, Venous Thromboembolism, Cerebrovascular Disorders, Exercise, Incidence, Risk, Risk Reduction Behavior, Habits, Primary Prevention

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