The study conducted in Australia was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine and evaluated the four known risk factors to heart disease in women such as excess weight (high BMI); smoking; high blood pressure; and physical inactivity. The risk factors are the same as in the United States and in combination account for over half the global prevalence of heart disease, which remains the leading cause of death in high income countries.
The findings on risk factors was evaluated in 32,154 research participants in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health. The results reflect that inactivity and high pressure increased progressively from age 22-90 and on a positive note smoking fell from 28% in the 22-27 age group to 5% in the 73-78 year age group.
Combining the prevalence and relative risk data, the researchers found that up to the age of 30, smoking was the most important contributor to heart disease, with a risk rate of 59%. But from age 30 until the late 80s, low physical activity levels were responsible for higher levels of population risk than any of the other risk factors.
The researchers recommend a strong emphasis on promoting physical activity which is maintained across the adult life span as a top priority.
W. J. Brown, T. Pavey, A. E. Bauman. Comparing population attributable risks for heart disease across the adult lifespan in women. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2014; DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2013-093090