Even Moderate Activity Can Halve Heart Failure Risk
Moderate physical activity, walking, drinking moderately, avoiding smoking and preventing obesity may be enough to cut the risk of heart failure for people older than 65. They key finding of a new study at Tufts University is that activity does not need to be strenuous to bring changes and results.
Researchers followed 4,490 men and women age 65 and older, with the average age of 72, without initial signs of heart failure. During the span of 21 years, participants underwent annual physical exams and questionnaires that covered data regarding diet, walking pace and distance, exercise, leisure time, alcohol consumption, smoking, weight, and waist circumference. Throughout the course of the study, 1,380 participants developed heart failure.
The factors closely tied to preventing heart failure risk were walking at least two miles per hour, burning calories during free time activities, not drinking more than two servings of alcohol daily, not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight. Participants that included at least four of these factors cut their heart failure risk in half compared to those who only included one or zero factors.
Other factors that could influence heart risk, such as socioeconomic status, were accounted for as well. One notable discovery was that following a specific diet was not linked to heart failure risk—although increased salt intake was an association. Also, the intensity of exercise was not as important as walking pace or leisure activity.
These factors, however, were tied only to heart failure risk and do not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.