Being sedentary may be as bad for the heart as being overweight

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Even if you're at a healthy weight, being out of shape may increase your risk of heart disease just as much as if you were overweight, a study in the March 1 Journal of the American College of Cardiology reports.

The study included data from people ages 40 to 79 who were at a healthy weight or overweight based on their body mass index (see www.health.harvard.edu/bmi for a calculator). The participants also provided information about their exercise habits, how long they sat each day, and whether they ever felt short of breath when hurrying or walking up a slight hill.

Using a standard heart disease risk calculator, researchers determined that nearly 30% of the people at a "healthy" weight were at increased risk for heart disease. Factors such as having a large abdomen, not getting recommended amounts of physical activity, and becoming breathless with exertion were all characteristics of a sedentary lifestyle. Having these factors increased the risk for cardiovascular disease of "healthy" weight people to that seen in people who were overweight, according to the authors.

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