Is sitting for too long as bad as smoking?

Posted at 4:03 PM, Feb 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-05 19:50:11-05

You likely paid attention today to your shoes, making sure they matched. And you likely paid attention to the weather to make sure you were dressed appropriately, probably a coat and maybe gloves.

But how much attention have you given your heart today?

Heart attack and stroke are the No. 1 killer of women over the age of 35, and 90 percent of us have at least one risk factor.

Reducing risk factors

There are things we can all do to reduce our risk, some of them quite easy.

Dr. Tracy Stephens from St. Luke’s Hospital is passionate about heart health. I interviewed her recently. We talked about signs of a heart issue. We talked about things we can all do to reduce our risk - all things you’ve likely heard before. (I’m including them below in case, like me, you don’t mind going over them again.)

But in that interview, I asked, “What are two things every one of us can do right away to live more heart healthy - things we might not have heard before?”

Without skipping a beat (see what I did there?), Stephens said, “Don’t sit for more than 30 minutes at a time. And own a blood pressure machine.”

She suggests even standing and marching in place; she mentioned “toe lifts.”

“In the absence of an exercise program, our body becomes very deconditioned. Our arteries love to dilate. Without activity, they don’t get to dilate. They take on a constant state of restricted arteries. Everything hardens up,” said Stephens.

Warning signs

Some possible signs of heart attack or stroke:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Toothache
  • Pain between the shoulder blades
  • New, overwhelming fatigue

Things we can do to help reduce chance of a heart attack by 95 percent in women:

  • Eat healthy - think of foods without food labels (produce section of the grocery store).
  • Stay healthy - you don’t have to be a maniac exerciser, just stay active (count steps in your day).
  • Maintain an ideal body weight.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Limit alcohol.
  • Don’t sit for more than 30 minutes at a time.

“We think now sitting is the new smoking,” said Stephens, meaning not moving can be just as bad for us as smoking.

As for knowing your blood pressure, she says most agree 140/90 is a good guideline to stay under.

Stephens said controlling our blood pressure reduces the chance of stroke, heart attack, blindness, need for dialysis, erectile dysfunction… The list goes on.


Christa Dubill can be reached at

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