Walking more, not faster, can significantly reduce the risk of heart failure in older women, according to the first study on the subject.
The study, which involved more than 137,000 women aged 50 to 79 years, confirmed that exercise reduces the overall risk of heart failure by 25 percent.
It was also the first work to show that the movement seemed to work as well as drugs to reduce the risk of two types of heart failure that are difficult to treat: one related to heart attacks and the other with high blood pressure or diabetes.
The researchers said their findings suggest that what matters is the amount, not the intensity, of the physical activity performed, and to the relief of many, walking is one of the most effective methods.
Dozens of studies have analyzed how exercise affects the risk of heart attacks and high blood pressure. But none had addressed heart failure, and very few had addressed women. This study from EE UU
"This is the first study that reports that physical activity levels are associated with a lower risk of developing heart failure in older adults, particularly women," lead author Dr. Michael LaMonte, associate professor of epidemiology at the School of Health public of the University of Buffalo. Health professions, he said:
"This is quite important from the point of view of public health, given the poor prognosis that this type of heart failure has once it is present."
Heart failure disproportionately affects older adults, with about four out of five cases in people aged 65 or older, an age group for whom heart failure is the leading cause of hospitalization.
The American Heart Association measures it by using something called "ejection fraction," which evaluates how well a person's heart pumps (ejects) blood.
Several factors can slow down the pumping speed, reducing your "ejection fraction" to dangerous levels.
Dr. LaMonte said that heart failure with reduced ejection fraction usually occurs in people who have had a heart attack.
The heart becomes a poorer pump, which leads to related complications, such as the failure of other organs and, in the worst case, the need for a heart transplant or even sudden cardiac death.
Heart failure with "preserved ejection fraction" tends to occur in people who have not had a heart attack but who have high blood pressure or diabetes.
Dr. LaMonte said: "The heart muscle wears more or less and becomes an inefficient pump, although not at the extreme seen with a reduced ejection fraction."
The research team examined self-reported physical activity information from 137,303 participants in the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), a long-term study that has yielded important results on death and disease risk in postmenopausal women.
They then analyzed a subset of 35,272 women who had reduced ejection fraction or heart failure with preserved ejection fraction.
During an average follow-up of 14 years, there were 2,523 cases of heart failure, including 451 with reduced ejection fraction and 734 with preserved ejection fraction.
As part of their analysis, the researchers explained the development of the heart attack before the diagnosis of heart failure.
Dr. LaMonte said that is critical because a heart attack after the completion of the evaluation of physical activity, but before the diagnosis of heart failure, could lead to biased results by suggesting a stronger relationship than would be the case .
He said: & # 39; In realizing this, it is likely that our results will not be influenced in this regard.
"We also showed that the protective relationship between physical activity and the development of heart failure was maintained when we examined changes in levels of physical activity over time."
The cumulative incidence of general heart failure was lower with the increase in physical activity, compared to women who did not report physical activity at the beginning.
Each additional activity average of 30 to 45 minutes was associated, on average, with a nine percent risk reduction for general heart failure, eight percent for heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, and 10 percent for heart failure with reduced ejection fraction.
Physical activity and gait were inversely associated with the development of heart failure, while specific physical activity of intensity (mild, moderate and intense) was not.
Dr. LaMonte said: "The finding that walking demonstrated a protective association with heart failure and its subtypes is particularly important in a public health context.
This is especially relevant given that walking is by far the most commonly reported physical activity in older adults.
He added: "Because heart failure is much more common after age 60 and its treatment is very challenging and expensive, the possibility of preventing its development by promoting higher levels of physical activity, and specifically walking, in later life could have an important impact on the global burden of this disease in an aging society. "
The message to take home, according to Dr. LaMonte, is "move more, sit down less, which is probably prudent advice for all of us."
The findings were published online by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Heart Failure.