5 Lifestyle Factors Linked to Less Heart Failure

Heart failure risk may be lowered with modifiable lifestyle factors after 65

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Your day-to-day activities just may halve your risk for heart failure.

A new study from Tufts University found that the presence of five lifestyle factors may dramatically reduce the risk of heart failure after age 65. These factors included walking briskly, being moderately active during leisure time, drinking alcohol only in moderation, not smoking and avoiding obesity.

"It's encouraging to learn that older adults can make simple changes to reduce their heart failure risk ...” said lead study author Liana C. Del Gobbo, PhD, of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, in a press release.

Sarah A. Samaan, MD, a board-certified cardiologist and physician partner with the Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano, TX, highlighted how simple changes can have broad effects on patients' health.

"This study confirms that by simply choosing a healthy lifestyle, you can drastically lower your chances of developing this dreaded condition, with virtually no downside or added cost," Dr. Samaan, who was not involved with the current study, told dailyRx News. "Simply walking regularly, avoiding tobacco, maintaining a healthy weight, and drinking a little alcohol if you like it can have an enormous impact on your health. Other studies have shown us that these healthy choices can also reduce your risks for dementia and stroke."

For this study, Dr. Del Gobbo and team followed 4,490 men and women age 65 and older for up to 21.5 years. None of these men and women had signs of heart failure when the study began.

Heart failure occurs when the heart cannot pump as much blood as the body needs. According to the American College of Cardiology, the condition has been on the rise in the US in recent years and is a leading cause of hospitalization for those over age 65.

Dr. Del Gobbo and team tracked the study patients' diets, walking habits, leisure activities, exercise intensity, alcohol use, smoking status, weight, and height through surveys and physical exams. They also monitored patients' heart health.

During this study, 1,380 heart failure cases occurred.

However, those who displayed four or more of the healthy behaviors were half as likely to develop heart failure — compared with those who displayed zero or only one behavior.

The lifestyle choices associated with the highest reduced risk of heart failure were a walking speed of 2 miles per hour or faster and leisure activities that burned at least 845 calories a week. Moderate alcohol intake of one or two drinks a day, not smoking and avoiding obesity were also important.

Dr. Del Gobbo and team also tracked dietary patterns but found no correlation between diet and heart failure risk.

“Although dietary patterns were not related to heart failure risk in this study, eating a healthy diet is of critical importance for preventing other cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases,” Dr. Del Gobbo said.

In an editorial about this study, David J. Maron, MD, a cardiologist at Vanderbilt Heart/Vascular Institute, and Sharon A. Hunt, MD, a cardiologist at Stanford University Health Care, wrote that this study may show that inexpensive lifestyle modifications can help people decrease their risk of heart failure.

"It makes sense for us and our patients to walk briskly, drink modestly (and responsibly), avoid obesity, and not smoke," Drs. Maron and Hunt wrote. "We already know that these behaviors have ample health benefits, and prevention of heart failure may be an additional advantage."

The study and editorial were published in the July issue of the journal JACC Heart Failure.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Institute on Aging funded this research.

Study authors Drs. Bruce M. Psaty and Dariush Mozaffarian disclosed funding from Zoll LifeCor, Bunge, Pollock Institute, Quaker Oats Foodminds, Nutrition Impact, Amarin, AstraZeneca, Winston and Strawn LLP. These companies provide services or make products used in the treatment of heart disease.

Review Date: 
July 6, 2015
Last Updated:
July 15, 2015