Reduce Heart Failure Risk with Just a Little Activity and Weight Loss

Health Professional

I want to share with you a study published recently that once again drives home the point - you must make physical activity a priority if you want to live a life free of heart disease  Pay special attention if you're male or have a man in your life whose health you worry about.

Let's start with a couple definitions:

Heart Failure - When your heart can't pump enough blood to meet the needs of your body.

Obesity - A body mass index greater than 30.0.

Overweight - A body mass index between 25 to 29.9.

Between 1982 and 2007 the Physician's Health Study followed over 21,000 men between the ages of 40 and 84.   During this time over 1,100 participants were newly diagnosed with heart failure.

Weight and physical active each were independently linked to heart failure risk.


Having a high BMI increased heart failure risk in both active and sedentary men.   For every additional 7 pounds on a man 5 foot 10 inches tall, risk for heart failure increased 11%.

If you compared lean men with a BMI less than 25 versus overweight men, the overweight men were 49% more likely to be diagnosed with heart failure.   An obese man had a 180% greater risk.

Physical Activity

Vigorous physical activity reduced heart failure risk in lean, overweight, and obese men.   Men that exercised vigorously only 1-3 times a month reduced their heart failure risk 18%.   The more frequent and vigorous the exercise the greater the benefit.   Very active men, exercising vigorously 5-7 days per week reduced heart failure risk 36%.

Weight and Physical Activity

As seen above, weight and physical active have an independent affect on heart failure risk, but their combined risk is substantial and worth mentioning, too.

Compared to a lean man active 1-3 times monthly, risk of heart failure increased 19% for inactive lean (BMI less than 25) men, 49% in overweight active men, 78% in overweight inactive men, 168% in obese active men, and 293% in obese inactive men.

Two many numbers to keep track of?   Well, let's break it down for a man with a BMI greater than 30 who is inactive.   This man's risk of heart failure is 293% higher than a man who is lean and active 1-3 times per month.   If this obese inactive man were to add regular activity to his routine, he'd cut his risk 125%.

Remember, this study shows a little activity has substantial benefits.   By being vigorously active just 1-3 days each month you can cut your risk 18%.

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