Heart failure risk reduced in older adults with moderate physical activity and healthy weight

By: Bel Marra Health | Heart Health | Sunday, September 25, 2016 - 09:30 AM

Heart failure risk reduced in older adults with moderate physical activity and healthy weightThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates nearly 5.1 million Americans have heart failure. Heart failure is the result of the heart not functioning properly and can lead to death. Aging is a large factor affecting the function of the heart, so many seniors are at risk for developing heart failure.

There are many contributing factors aside from aging that can lead to heart failure. Diabetes, high blood pressure, previous heart attack, and obesity are some notable ones.

With this information in mind, there is one thing that seniors can do to reduce their risk of heart failure by nearly half.

Exercise linked to reduction of heart failure among seniors

By now we know the benefits of exercise in improving overall health. New research suggests seniors who exercise can lower their risk of heart failure by nearly half.

The latest findings come from the University of Boston where researchers followed 44,000 patients over 65, for 22 years. From the group, 1,380 cases of heart failure were reported. After adjusting for other factors, the researchers did not find a link between poor diet and the risk of heart failure.

What they did uncover, though, is those who walked faster – three miles an hour as opposed to two – reduced their risk of heart failure by 26 percent. Those who met at least four criteria of good health – such as not smoking, exercising, having a healthy weight, etc. – lowered their risk of heart failure by 45 percent.

Although many heart conditions may be a result of poor diet, researchers believe that when it comes to heart failure specifically, there are other factors that contribute to heart failure more than a poor diet.

The new findings suggest that seniors do not have to do intense physical activity, but rather something as simple as brisk walking can be enough to improve their odds against heart failure. Furthermore, burning calories with hobbies and home activities – cleaning, gardening, etc. – is also effective means of exercise.

One aspect that remains unclear is whether practicing healthy habits early on in life will further reduce the risk of heart failure. Researchers noted they were unaware of the health status of participants prior to monitoring them after age 65.

Exercise and heart failure in the elderly

Although a healthy diet and exercise are essential for overall heart health in all of us, heart failure patients particularly benefit from these lifestyle choices when it comes to improving heart function.

Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFPEF) is becoming increasingly common and affects those who are overweight or obese. A person’s ability to exercise with HFPEF becomes a challenge, as this condition contributes to shortness of breath and fatigue during physical activity.

For the study, 100 older obese women with HFPEF were divided into four groups: only diet, only exercise, diet and exercise, and a control group with no treatment.

After 20 weeks, all treatment groups saw improvements in their ability to exercise as revealed by their peak exercise oxygen consumption during the activity. Those in the diet and exercise group doubled their oxygen consumption.

Diet and exercise were also found to reduce the number of fat cells within leg muscles, which can further improve a heart failure patient’s ability to exercise.

Additional benefits of exercise for seniors

Not only will exercise help reduce seniors’ risk of heart failure, but it can also provide additional benefits to improve overall health. Although exercise may appear more challenging the older one gets, picking exercises for your particular needs can maximize the results.

  • Bone strength – exercise can help reduce bone loss, which contributes to the onset of osteoporosis. Stronger bones also mean a reduction in falls, which are often associated with further health consequences.
  • Weight management – weight is a contributing factor to many health risks. Exercise can aid in proper weight management, helping better manage current health conditions or reduce their onset. Conditions like diabetes and hypertension can definitely benefit from regular exercise.
  • Mood boost – mood and mental health are very important as we age. Seniors may often live alone and become less social, and their positive outlook may diminish. Exercise has been shown to help improve sleep and boost the good mood.

The key is finding an exercise you enjoy to make sure you stick with it. As long as you have clearance from a doctor, exercise is safe.

With such a large variety of exercise available, you’ll sure be able to find something that you like and that fits your needs. Just because you’re aging doesn’t mean you have to start slowing down. Exercise allows you to continue enjoying life no matter what age.

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