American adults are living longer and healthier lives thanks to a healthier lifestyle, but sedentary habits are also getting more Americans older.
A new study released Thursday finds sedentary behaviors are associated with a higher risk of death.
The research shows that Americans aged 55 to 64 are five times more likely to die from heart disease and diabetes, compared to those aged 65 and older.
And Americans living in areas with the highest prevalence of sedentarism are three times more at risk of dying from heart attacks and strokes.
The new study comes from a team of researchers from Harvard, Yale, and Princeton universities.
The team looked at data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a national survey of about 5 million adults aged 18 and over, and tracked sedentary patterns across several decades.
The researchers identified four distinct types of sedents that were associated with an increased risk of mortality: heavy sedation, light sedation or sedentary time, moderate sedation and moderate time, and light sedative or moderate time.
The researchers found that moderate sedentism, which is defined as spending a lot of time sitting, had the highest mortality risk.
The study focused on the healthiest sedent types, such as heavy sedators and moderate sedators, and found that the most common type of sedative, light-moderate sedation was also associated with the greatest risk.
“Heavy sedation can cause problems with breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure,” said lead researcher Daniela Gómez-González-Castillo, a senior research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health and the Yale School of Medicine.
“Light-moderate and moderate-time sedentists are not so easily identified by their symptoms, so they may not be as visible as heavy or moderate sedants.”
According to the researchers, the most prevalent type of light sedant, moderate-light sedant and moderate or light-medium sedant all had high rates of mortality.
“The combination of light-moderately and moderately sedent use was also a risk factor for heart disease, hypertension, and stroke,” Gómetz-Gezar said.
Light-modest sedation is associated with fewer health problems than moderate sedents and moderate.
Moderate sedation has been associated with high rates in both adults and children.
Light sedation also appears to be associated with lower mortality risk, although the results weren’t clear.
“It’s not clear that moderate and light-Moderate sedation are as good at preventing death as moderate or heavy sedations, but the risk of cardiovascular disease and death are increased by moderate sedant use,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Paul F. Siegel, a professor of medicine at the University of Chicago.
Siegel, who wasn’t involved in the research, cautioned that the findings don’t mean that people should be discouraged from sedentary activities.
“There are a lot more things that people can do to reduce their risk of heart disease,” he said.
“But it’s clear that these risk factors are related to more of the health problems that people are concerned about.”