When It Comes to Reducing Heart Failure Risk, ‘More Exercise is Better’

by Amy Hendel, P.A. Health Writer

Could exercise help reduce your risk of a heart failure? If you get enough, yes. A study found that if you want to reduce your risk, you should increase your exercise efforts.

What is heart failure?

Heart failure occurs when the heart is not able to provide sufficient amounts of oxygenated blood to the rest of the body. The heart muscle in this case has been weakened, so it no longer pumps blood efficiently. Typical symptoms of early heart failure are increasing shortness of breath (especially on exertion), coughing or wheezing, build-up of fluid or edema, and an elevated heart rate. Causes or risk factors for this disease include aging, having prior heart disease like coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, or a prior heart attack.

What are the current minimum daily exercise recommendations?

Current minimum recommendations for physical activity are 30 minutes of heart-rate elevating exercise most days of the week, or a total of 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly. This minimum guideline was established to get Americans moving, and it was based on studies that suggested that at least 30 minutes of exercise daily was necessary to support basic overall health.

A study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation focused exclusively on the specific duration of exercise necessary to lower the risk of heart failure.The study established that doubling the minimum recommendations, or engaging in one hour of moderate exercise daily, could lower the risk of heart failure by 20 percent.

Quadruple the minimum established guidelines and engage in two hours of exercise daily, and you lower the risk of heart failure by 35 percent.

The researchers found that the current minimum activity guidelines only offered a modest reduction in the risk of heart failure, hence these recommendations. Specifically, the study found that there was a dose-dependent, inverse link between exercise and heart failure, meaning “the more exercise, the greater a reduction in the risk factor.”

The research data was gathered from 12 separate studies done in the U.S. and Europe, involving a collective total of 370,460 subjects who self-reported varying levels of activity at baseline. Over a 15-year period, 20,203 heart failure events were diagnosed. The researchers were then able to extrapolate the overall “doses” of exercise that seemed to reduce the risk of heart failure in the subjects. The results suggested that doing twice the minimum 150 minutes offered 20 percent reduced risk; quadruple the minimum dose offered a 35 percent reduction in heart failure risk.

What do the results suggest?

There has been good success in reducing the overall incidence of coronary artery disease (CAD). However, heart failure has not had similar success rates. This study suggests that the general population probably needs to consider a commitment of more than 150 minutes of exercise weekly to impact their risk of developing heart failure. We also need to involve our children in daily exercise and fitness activities. Certainly with the many reports that reveal just how much the average person sits daily, it seems intuitive that we need to be moving more and engaging in more defined exercise efforts to combat our very sedentary lifestyle. “Use it or lose it” is a good adage when it comes to moving our body and exercising our heart muscle. Now we need to recognize that we may need to move it more often and for longer durations of time!

Amy Hendel, P.A.
Meet Our Writer
Amy Hendel, P.A.

Known as "The HealthGal", Amy Hendel P.A. is a medical and lifestyle reporter, nutrition and fitness expert, health coach and brand ambassador. Trained as a physician assistant, she maintains a health coach private practice in New York and Los Angeles. Author of The Four Habits of Healthy Families, find her on Twitter @Healthgal1103 and on Facebook @TheHealthGal. Check “Daily Health News” at healthgal.com. Her personal mantra? “Fix it first with food, fitness, and lifestyle.”