Cut Your Heart Failure Risk by Half

Posted by Bianca Doran on February 10, 2016

Cut Your Heart Failure Risk by Half

Diet and exercise can have help prevent one from developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions. Did you know, however, that keeping fit can also cut your heart failure risk in half? A new study, led by author Liana Del Gobbo, focused on better understanding the risk factors associated with heart failure.

The Participants

Heart failure can occur when the heart is incapable of pumping sufficiently to maintain blood flow. Gobbo and her team followed more than 4,400 people over the age of 65 for 22 years. The participants were initiated into the study between the late 80’s and early 90’s. Over the course of their study, there were 1,380 cases of heart failure.

They found no link between diet and heart failure, an interesting discovery in their research since diet is such an important factor to consider with other conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  Although, they did find those who had higher sodium intake had an increased chance of developing heart failure. This may correlate because higher sodium can mean higher blood pressure, a key risk factor for heart failure.

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Exercise, Diet and the Heart

So what is exercise's role in reducing your heart failure risk? The study found that those who engaged in physical activity and met criteria for good health were 45% less likely to experience an episode, nearly cutting their risk of heart failure in half.  Even those who walked faster reduced their chances! 

This study shows that older adults do not have to engage in strenuous activity to see the benefits. For example, walking at a brisk pace, house or yard work and other daily activities can have positive effects on overall health.

So how much of a concern should heart failure be for older adults? According to Del Gobbo, “A person aged 55 has one-in-three chance of developing heart failure in his lifetime.”

Exercise, particularly, cardiovascular exercise challenges the body to pump blood towards working muscles and with the increased blood flow, there is blood volume returning to the heart.  With time, cardiovascular exercise can actually relieve the heart from overworking.

The true takeaway message from this study is this: adopt healthy habits as early as you can. Staying fit and eating right can not only slow down the process of aging, but it may also be able to save your life. 


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