One Step at a Time to a Healthier Heart

Healthier lifestyle habits will lower risk for heart failure

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Most people know that heart failure risks can be reduced by living healthier lives. Actually trying to change all bad habits at once can be difficult though. Take it one step at a time.

Around 5.7 million Americans suffer from heat failure each year and by the time an adult reaches 40 their chances have increased by 20 percent. Researchers believe that changing even one bad habit can reduce a person’s risk of heart failure. It’s better than nothing.

"Simply add fruits or vegetables to your meals."

Lead author, Gang Hu, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Chronic Disease Epidemiology Laboratory at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, believes that almost half of all heart failure cases in the population that was studied could have been prevented if those people engaged in three healthy lifestyle behaviors.

Healthy behaviors include staying physically active, eating more vegetables, quitting smoking and losing weight to avoid being overweight or obese.

The study included 18,346 men and 19,729 women who were between the ages of 25 and 74. All participants were from Finland. A follow-up was conducted about 14 years later. There were 638 men and 445 women who eventually developed heart failure. Researchers used body mass index (BMI) to classify participants.

A normal BMI range is considered 18.5-24.9, overweight BMI is 25-29.9 and overweight is a BMI greater than 30.

The results indicated that men who smoked increased their risk by 86 percent compared to those who didn’t smoke. Women had similar results, but the risks were even greater – 109 percent increased risk.

Male participants who suffered from being overweight had a 15 percent chance of heart failure and results were similar for women with a 21 percent chance. Risks were even greater for those who were obese – 75 percent increased risk for obese men and 106 percent increased risk for women.

People who regularly exercised had reduced risks of heart failure. There risk became even lower with more regular physical activity – 33 percent reduction in men and 36 percent reduction in women.

Including vegetables in meals three to six times per week decreased risk by 26 percent in men and 27 percent in women. This was compared to those who only ate vegetables one time per week.

Changing all four of these behaviors resulted in decreased a 70 percent reduced risk in men and 81 percent in women. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t change all four immediately. Even one change will decrease risk for heart failure by 32 percent in men and 47 percent in women, so get started today.

This observational study was published in an American Heart Association journal, Circulation: Heart Failure.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 14, 2011
Last Updated:
September 14, 2011