Walking slowly could be a sign you’re destined to suffer from heart failure, researchers say
Fast walkers are less likely to develop heart failure than loiterers, research suggests.
Scientists at Brown University in Rhode Island tracked the health of 25,000 women over the age of 50, who self-reported their walking speed.
Women who claimed to walk at an “average” pace — between 2-3 mph — were 27 percent less likely to have heart failure than “regular” walkers, classified as less than 2 mph.
And women with the fastest walking pace — more than 5 mph — had a 34 percent lower risk.
Heart failure — when the organ becomes too weak or stiff to pump blood around the body — usually cannot be cured. But the condition can be managed through lifestyle changes, medication, or surgery.
Researchers said fast walkers may be fitter and benefit from better cardiovascular health, lowering risk.
Whether the finding may be related to: a muscle-loss disorder that has been associated with slow walking and heart failure.
But lead author Dr. Charles Eaton said the finding shows that walking pace is a marker of heart health.
Women who walk two to three miles per hour are 27 percent less likely to be diagnosed with heart failure than those who walk less than two miles per hour, according to a study of more than 25,000 women over the age of 50. Pictured: stock of elderly people walking
He said: ‘This study confirms other studies showing the importance of walking speed on mortality and other cardiovascular outcomes.
“Since the limited time for exercise is often given as a barrier to regular exercise, walking faster but for less time can provide similar health benefits to the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise.”
WHAT IS HEART FAILURE?
Heart failure means the heart can’t pump blood around the body, usually because it has become too weak or stiff.
The condition, most common in older people, affects about 900,000 Britons and 6.2 million Americans.
It is a long-term condition that gets worse over time and usually cannot be cured but can be managed through lifestyle changes and medication.
Symptoms include shortness of breath after physical activity or while resting, feeling tired most of the time, exhausting exercise, and swollen ankles or legs.
Heart failure often results from multiple problems affecting the heart at the same time, such as coronary heart disease – when the arteries supplying the heart become blocked – high blood pressure and cardiomyopathy – conditions that affect the heart muscle.
Common treatments include lifestyle changes such as eating healthier, exercising regularly and quitting smoking, medication, a device implanted in your chest to regulate your heart rhythm, and surgery.
The study could help identify those at higher risk of heart failure — by measuring their walking pace — and who could benefit from increasing their fitness and exercise tolerance, the researchers added.
Heart failure, which is most common in people over 50, affects about 900,000 Britons and 6.2 million Americans.
According to the researchers, about four percent of 60- to 80-year-olds and 11 percent of over-80s have heart failure.
They examined a database of the health records of 25,183 women ages 50 to 79 who self-reported their walking pace. Participants were followed for an average of 17 years.
The team divided them into three groups based on their speed: casual, intermediate and fast walkers.
After taking age and other health factors into account, the researchers found that those who walked at an “average” pace were 27 percent less likely to have heart failure than those who ran at a leisurely pace.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, also found that women who moved quickly were 34 percent less likely to have heart failure than the regular walkers.
Walking briskly for less than an hour per week was associated with the same risk reduction as walking at a normal or slow pace for two hours per week.
The researchers said that if a fast pace is “physically out of reach” for some women, achieving a moderate pace and taking walking classes “may benefit them.”
Walking faster was also associated with a lower risk of other heart conditions.
Average and fast walkers were about 27 percent less likely to be diagnosed with a condition that causes the heart to pump less blood than it should, known as reduced ejection fractions.
The mechanism may be because slow walking is linked to decreased muscle mass and an increased risk of heart failure, as well as being a marker of cardiorespiratory fitness, which has been found to reduce heart failure risk, the researchers said.
But because the study was an observation, the researchers noted that other medical or lifestyle factors may be behind the lower heart failure rates.
And it’s not clear whether encouraging older women to just increase their walking pace will reduce the risk, as other factors play a critical role.
However, the team said a previous UK study of 27,000 women, which found that fast walkers were 20 percent less likely to have heart disease than slow walkers, supports their findings.