Researchers examined data on 137,303 postmenopausal women, ages 50
to 79 (average age, 63). More than one third had high blood
pressure, but few had other risk factors for heart disease like
diabetes or a current smoking habit.
After an average of 14 years, 2,523 women developed heart failure.
Compared to women who didn't exercise at all, those who got at least
some physical activity were 11 percent less likely to develop heart
failure. Participants with the highest activity levels were 35
percent less likely to develop heart failure.
"Our findings show clearly that higher amounts of self-reported
total physical activity are associated with significantly lower
risks of developing overall heart failure and each subtype," said
lead study author Michael LaMonte, a researcher at the University at
Buffalo, New York.
In heart failure, the heart muscle is too weak to pump enough blood
through the body. Symptoms include fatigue, weight gain from fluid
retention, shortness of breath and coughing or wheezing. Medications
can help strengthen the heart and minimize fluid buildup.
Among the women who developed heart failure, 451 had a subtype
characterized by what's known as reduced ejection fraction, which
typically occurs after a heart attack and has a worse prognosis.
Compared to women who didn't exercise, those who got at least a
little activity were 19 percent less likely to develop this kind of
heart failure. Women who exercised the most were 32 percent less
likely to develop this subtype.
Another 734 women with heart failure had a subtype characterized by
what's known as preserved ejection fraction. This is more common in
older adults and easier to treat. Compared to sedentary women,
participants who got a little exercise were 7 percent less likely to
develop this kind of heart failure, and women who got the most
exercise were 33 percent less likely to develop this subtype.
Walking - the most common leisure activity among older adults -
appeared to work just as well as more vigorous workouts, LaMonte
said by email.
"This is a big finding," LaMonte said. "Most adults are able to
perform walking activities throughout the day, and often do so as
part of usual activities of daily living without necessarily having
planned walking as part of an exercise routine."
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To assess activity levels, researchers examined data from exercise
questionnaires completed by all of the women. Then, they scored
participants' exercise levels and intensity based on a measure known
as metabolic equivalent of task (MET) hours per week.
Women got an average of 13 MET hours per week. Walking was the most
common form of exercise, accounting for about 38 percent of
participants' physical activity.
Each additional MET hour of activity per week was tied to a 16
percent lower risk of heart failure overall and a 10 percent lower
risk of heart failure with reduced ejection fraction, the
researchers report in the Journal of the American College of
Cardiology: Heart Failure.
The study wasn't designed to prove whether or how exercise might
directly prevent heart failure. Researchers also depended on women
to accurately report their own activity levels, which isn't always
Still, the results should serve as a reminder that it's never too
late to start exercising, said Trine Moholdt, a researcher at the
Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim who
wasn't involved in the study.
"Higher doses of physical activity or exercise are more protective,
but every level of physical activity is better than being inactive,"
Moholdt said by email.
"Walking is an excellent activity choice for older individuals,"
Moholdt added. "I would also recommend older women do some
activities to maintain their muscle strength and muscle mass."
SOURCE: https://bit.ly/2NMlKNn JACC: Heart Failure, online September
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