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Taking The Stairs: A Simple Way To Lower Heart Disease Risk By 50 Steps A Day Health News

Stair climbing, a simple yet effective physical activity, may play a substantial role in reducing the risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) in general, according to a recent study.

The research, which investigated the stair-climbing habits of individuals, revealed that those who scaled 50 stairs per day experienced a 20 percent reduction in their risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those who did not engage in daily stair climbing.

While the primary focus of the study was on ASCVD, encompassing conditions like stroke, heart attacks, and blood clots, the findings are applicable to a broader spectrum of cardiovascular diseases, as indicated by the study's corresponding author.

Exploring the Impact of Stair Climbing

The study delved into data gathered from 458,860 adult participants in the UKBiobank. Researchers collected information on stair climbing, lifestyle choices, and sociodemographic factors as baseline data, revisiting this information five years later. The participants were then monitored for 12.5 years.

Staircases, on average, were assumed to consist of 10 steps. The study categorised individuals based on their daily stair-climbing frequency, ranging from 1 to 5, 6 to 10, 11 to 15, 16 to 20, and 21 times or more.

Interestingly, the protective effects of stair climbing were most pronounced among individuals who were not genetically predisposed to CVD. However, stair climbing also mitigated the existing CVD risk for other participants.

The Benefits of Stair Climbing for Heart Health

Dr. Lu Qi, the corresponding author of the study and director of Tulane University's Obesity Research Center, emphasised various ways in which stair climbing can positively impact health. He highlighted that stair climbing qualifies as vigorous exercise, which has demonstrated benefits in lowering risk factors for heart disease, including weight management, improved metabolic status, reduced inflammation, and decreased risk of related conditions like diabetes.

Compared to activities such as brisk walking, Dr. Cheng-Han Chen, medical director of the Structural Heart Program at Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California (who was not part of the study), described stair climbing as an enhanced form of aerobic exercise. It engages multiple muscle groups, including the lower body and core, owing to the effort required to move against gravity.

Dr. Chen further noted that stair climbing provides approximately three times the exercise benefits in the same time frame as walking on level ground, making it an efficient choice for physical activity.

Considerations and Alternatives

While stair climbing is a valuable exercise, Dr. Chen emphasised that it may not be suitable for everyone, particularly those with joint issues. He encouraged individuals to engage in any form of physical activity that suits their capabilities, stressing that even walking on level ground provides health benefits.

Understanding the Gravity of Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease, including ASCVD, remains a critical health concern in the United States. A 2022 study reported that ASCVD affected approximately 24 million people, accounting for around 10 percent of the population above the age of 21.

Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that CVD was responsible for one in every five deaths in the United States in 2021, totaling approximately 695,000 fatalities. Each year, roughly 805,000 Americans experience heart attacks, with 605,000 being first-time occurrences.

Coronary heart disease, encompassing conditions like angina, myocardial infarction, and coronary artery stenosis, stands as the leading cause of death in the Western world, claiming the lives of 370,000 individuals annually.

Stroke, another consequence of CVD, affects about 795,000 Americans each year, resulting in approximately 137,000 deaths. Strokes rank as the fifth leading cause of death and a major source of long-term disability. Ischemic strokes, often linked to atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, are the most common form of stroke.

While ASCVD is more prevalent in men during younger years, this discrepancy diminishes post-menopause, possibly due to hormonal changes in women as they age.

Sources: Medical News Today