Heart failure: Daily steps, other exercise can help lower risk

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
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Tennis is an activity women can do to help lower heart failure risk. Thomas Barwick/Getty Images
  • Researchers report that regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of heart failure in women 63 to 99 years of age.
  • The researchers found that 3,600 steps per day was a reasonable target for older women.
  • They suggest women need to do twice the time of light to moderate activity to receive the same Health benefits that they get from vigorous activity.

Physical activity in older women, including light activity, is associated with lower heart failure rates than those with a sedentary lifestyle.

That’s according to a new study published in the journal JAMA Cardiology.

Researchers analyzed the activity data of 5,951 women, ages 63 to 99, who wore activity trackers for 24 hours a day for seven days, except when in water. The participants did not have known heart failure.

Scientists followed the women for an average of 7.5 years. During this time, there were 407 cases of heart failure.

Some results of the study include:

  • The scientists consistently observed lower risks of heart failure in women who participated in daily physical activity.
  • Double the time spent on light to moderate resulted in similar health benefits to intense physical activity.
  • 3,600 steps per day was associated with a 26% lower risk of heart failure.

Heart failure is when your heart cannot pump enough blood to support other organs.

Heart failure and heart attack are not the same thing. A heart attack is when blood flow is partially or entirely cut off to a part of the heart.

Heart failure can be acute, where it develops suddenly, or chronic, where it slowly worsens over time. It is typically caused by another condition, such as coronary heart disease, heart inflammation, high blood pressure, or cardiomyopathy, according to the National Institutes of Health.

There is no cure for heart failure. However, there are ways to manage the condition.

Lifestyle changes, such as daily physical activity, not smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, reducing sodium intake, managing stress, getting enough sleep, and maintaining a Healthy weight can reduce you manage heart failure.

Implantable devices, such as a pacemaker or cardioverter defibrillator, can help your heart beat regularly.

Some medications might help:

  • Diuretics and aldosterone antagonists remove excess sodium and fluid from your body, decreasing the blood your heart needs to pump.
  • ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers relax your blood vessels, making it easier for your heart to pump blood.
  • Beta-blockers slow your heart rate to make it easier for your heart to pump blood and can prevent long-term heart failure from getting worse.
  • Digoxin increases your heartbeat’s strength, allowing it to pump more blood. This drug is used for serious heart failure or when other therapies do not work.

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