Prevent Heart Failure with Lifestyle Changes

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Pro
  • The way you choose to live, impacts your risk for disease. A new study published in the September issue of Circulation: Heart Failure has found that not smoking, losing weight, being active, and eating a diet high in vegetables may decrease your risk for heart failure.


    Heart failure is the condition where the heart becomes weakened and does not pump blood and oxygen throughout your system effectively.


    Researchers followed over 18,000 men and close to 20,000 women in Finland. Participants ranged in age from 25 to 74 years-old and were followed for about 14 years. During this 14 year time period, 445 women and 638 men developed heart failure.

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    Smoking and Excess Weight Increase Heart Failure Risk


    Researchers concluded that men who smoked were at an 86 percent increased risk of heart failure compared to non-smokers. For women the risk increased 109 percent for smokers.


    Being an overweight man increased risk of developing heart failure 15%, while excess weight increased a woman's risk 21%. If you were obese the risk increase was even greater - 75% for men and 106% for women. As an FYI, being overweight means your body mass index is between 25 and 30. If you are obese your body mass index is greater than 30.


    Exercise and a Diet High in Vegetables Decrease Heart Failure Risk


    On the plus side, the risk for heart failure was reduced for those implementing healthy lifestyle behaviors. Men who exercised moderately had a 21% reduced risk compared to men who lightly exercised. For women, the decreased health risk for moderate exercise was 13%. For participants who engaged in vigorous exercise their risk for heart failure was 33% lower for men and 36% lower in women.


    The study also found a diet that included vegetables (i.e. eating vegetables 3-6 times per week) decreased risk in men 26% and 27% in women compared to those rarely consuming vegetables.


    Researchers found healthy habits to have a cumulative effect. This means the more healthy behaviors incorporated into everyday activities the greater the decrease in heart failure risk. Participants who engaged in all four healthy lifestyle behaviors - 1. Nonsmoker, 2. Healthy Weight, 3. Physically Active, 4. Diet High in Vegetables - their risk for heart failure was significantly lower. Men had a 70% lower risk and women an 81% reduced risk compared to those engaging in only one healthy behavior.


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Published On: October 12, 2011