exercise girl

A new study finds that the number of women in the United States with cardiovascular disease who are not doing enough physical activity is on the rise.

The American Heart Association (AHA) estimate that every year the condition kills 400,000 women — approximately the same number of females who die from cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, and diabetes put together.

When variables such as race are considered, the statistics become even more dramatic. The prevalence of heart disease among African American women is much greater than among white women.

Exercise is essential for heart health

The study suggests that more needs to be done to improve physical activity among women with cardiovascular disease who would benefit from increasing their exercise levels — to ensure they experience optimal heart health.

This intervention would also decrease their healthcare costs associated with cardiovascular disorders.

“Physical activity is a known, cost-effective prevention strategy for women with and without cardiovascular disease, and our study shows worsening health and financial trends over time among women with cardiovascular disease who don’t get enough physical activity,” says Victor Okunrintemi, internal medicine resident at East Carolina University, and author on the study.

Assessing changes in trends over the years

The researchers used data from a 2006–2015 questionnaire by the U.S. Agency for Health Care Research and Quality’s Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, which included more than 18,000 women of different races (non-Hispanic white, Asian, African American, and Hispanic) with cardiovascular disease.

The research team looked at the answers collected in 2006–2007 and then compared them with those from 2014–2015.

Physical activity affects healthcare costs

The study also revealed that women with cardiovascular disease who did not exercise saw an increase in their healthcare costs between 2006–2007 and 2014–2015.

Expenditure was around $12,700 in 2006–2007 and $14,800 in 2014–2015. In comparison, women with cardiovascular disease who did exercise enough spent about $8,800 in 2006–2007 and $10,500 in 2014–2015.

The researchers explained that the study was not focused on cause/effect, but it aimed at identifying 10-year trends in the levels of physical activity among U.S. women, considering variables such as age, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic factors.