Reduce your risk of heart failure by half

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | Heart Health | Saturday, September 27, 2014 - 05:01 AM

reduce the risks of heart failureEveryone likes to give you their two cents when it comes to what you should be doing to protect your health. Much like parenting advice, it comes whether you ask for it or not.

I’m betting there are all kinds of lifestyle changes and ideas that get pushed on you all the time. It can be overwhelming trying to overhaul all your habits at once. That’s why I recommend introducing small changes gradually, so they become natural good habits and part of your everyday routine.

It’s so refreshing, too, when I hear about news for simple adjustments you can make to reduce your risk of specific diseases.

On that note, a new study has shown that an hour of exercise a day can reduce your risk of heart failure by almost half. That’s a good news story if I ever heard one!

A new Swedish study, published in the American Heart Association (AHA) journal Circulation: Heart Failure, reveals that as little as one hour of moderate exercise, or 30 minutes of vigorous exercise per day, may lower the risk of heart failure by more than 46 percent.

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The low-down on heart and exercise

Swedish researchers looked at 39,805 people, between the ages of 20 and 90, who didn’t have a history of heart failure. They also looked at lifestyle and medical history questionnaires that participants completed back in 1997. These included questions about physical activity – light, moderate and heavy – and questions concerning lifestyle habits, like smoking and alcohol consumption.

During a follow-up period, researchers examined participants’ medical records in order to verify the diagnosis, hospitalization and mortality of the subjects. Results showed the more active a participant was, the lower their risk of heart failure. In fact, those who had more than one hour of moderate exercise or 30 minutes of vigorous exercise every day had their risk of heart failure lowered by as much as 46 percent. The benefits of physical exercise were the same for both men and women.

“You do not need to run a marathon to gain the benefits of physical activity – even quite low levels of activity can give you positive effects,” study co-author Dr. Kasper Andersen told Medical News Today.

“Physical activity lowers many heart disease risk factors, which in turn lowers the risk of developing heart failure as well as other heart diseases.”

When your heart is at risk

Heart failure happens when the heart is unable to pump enough blood and oxygen in the body, and support other organs. It affects more than 5 million people in the United States, costing the country an estimated $32 billion every year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports roughly half of people who develop heart failure die within five years of their diagnosis.

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How to stop heart disease in its tracks

Researchers pointed out that North American society promotes a sedentary lifestyle that is harmful to people’s health and immediate changes need to take place. I couldn’t agree more! We just can’t sit all day in our easy chair and expect to live long and healthy. Our bodies need to move and be challenged.

I agree with the AHA’s recommendation of 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity every week. That’s just three or four 40-minute sessions devoted to getting your body moving. You can break these up into more frequent shorter sessions, too.  The benefits of this simple adjustment to your lifestyle are huge!

In order to lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol – two heart failure risk factors –less than two hours of moderately intense physical activity weekly is enough to keep you, and your heart, in good shape.

Generally, moderate exercise can consist of a brisk walk or half an hour of chores around the house. A great way to incorporate physical activity is to involve yourself in activities with your friends or children and grandchildren.

Start gradually and work to increase the intensity of your exercise. Try walking and work up to hiking or an aerobic dance or swim class, or driveway shoveling when the snow falls.

Whatever activity you decide is right for you, incorporating moderate or vigorous exercise into your daily routine is key to a healthy cardiovascular system. Dedicate some time each day and it will become a wonderful habit you’ll find you can’t live without.

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