“Sitting Disease” Raises Coronary Artery Calcium

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Jacquelyn Kulinski, MD Assistant Professor Division of Cardiovascular Medicine Medical College of Wisconsin Milwaukee, WI 53226

Dr. Jacquelyn Kulinski

Jacquelyn Kulinski, MD
Assistant Professor
Division of Cardiovascular Medicine
Medical College of Wisconsin
Milwaukee, WI 53226

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Kulinski: Sedentary behavior, or “sitting disease”, is increasingly recognized as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and early death.  Many of these associations appear to be independent of exercise activity. The mechanisms through which sedentary behavior influences cardiovascular risk are largely unknown.  Therefore, we investigated the association between accelerometer measured sedentary behavior and coronary artery calcium (CAC), a marker of subclinical heart disease, in over 2,000 participants using data from the Dallas Heart Study (DHS) population.

We found a significant association between increasing sitting time and CAC in a population without prior history of cardiovascular disease.  This association was independent of measured exercise activity, traditional risk factors, and even socioeconomic factors.  Each hour of sedentary time was associated with a 16% increase in CAC burden.  Interestingly, the association between exercise and CAC was not significant in the fully-adjusted model. 

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Kulinski: These prior findings suggest that exercise may not entirely counteract the negative health effects of sitting too much. Reducing how much you sit every day may represent a more novel, companion strategy (in addition to exercise) to help reduce your chances of developing cardiovascular disease.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Kulinski: Future studies should investigate the “threshold” for “too much sitting”.  Is it 8 hours per day, is it less?  I suspect it depends on how much exercise one gets and current fitness level, but these questions deserve further investigation.  Future studies should also investigate how interventions to reduce sitting impact heart health.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Dr. Kulinski: Exercise is still very important and remains one of the strongest predictors of cardiovascular health and longevity.  The take-home message here is that it’s not OK to sit all day even if you exercise.  Remember, the recommended physical activity guidelines for adults are 150 minutes of at least moderate-intensity exercise per week.  In addition, reducing the amount of time you sit by even an hour or two a day could have a significant and positive impact on your health.  Start simple – pace back and forth while on the phone, walk on your lunch break, and get up and move at least every hour to avoid prolonged periods of sitting. Get a pedometer to track your daily steps (and motivate you to do more).  If you have a desk job, consider replacing your chair with a standing or treadmill desk.

“Take a break from sitting!”


Kulinski J, Kozlitina J, Berry J, de Lemos J, Khera A. SEDENTARY BEHAVIOR IS ASSOCIATED WITH CORONARY ARTERY CALCIFICATION IN THE DALLAS HEART STUDY. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015;65(10_S):. doi:10.1016/S0735-1097(15)61446-2.

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Last Updated on April 16, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD