Exercise May Lower Heart Failure Risk

Leisure time physical activity decreased heart failure risk more than total activity

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

(RxWiki News) An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but daily exercise may work better for your cardiologist.

A new study looked at how physical activity affected rates of heart failure. The study authors looked at leisure activity like jogging or swimming, as well as the total amount of activity per day.

They found that moderate daily exercise cut heart failure rates.

"Try to add exercise to your daily routine."

"Some exercise on a daily basis can help reduce the chance of heart disease/coronary artery disease which is one of the main causes of heart failure," said Rohit J. Parmar, MD, FACC, cardiologist at Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Texas A&M College of Medicine.

"Exercising about 30 minutes daily with moderate intensity is probably the most beneficial in reducing the chance of heart blockages and thereby reducing the chance of heart failure," said Dr. Parmar, who was not involved in this study. "One can still derive benefit with three times weekly exercise if daily exercise is not possible at all."

The study was written by Kasper Andersen, MD, PhD, of Uppsala University Hospital in Sweden, and colleagues.

Heart failure happens when the heart cannot adequately pump blood to the rest of the body. It is often deadly.

This study looked at the effects of exercise on heart failure risk.

The study authors gave 39,805 adults without heart failure a survey on lifestyle and medical history. The participants reported both leisure activity and total activity.

Leisure-time activity included walking, sports and other forms of exercise. Total activity was an estimation of all the energy a person expended in a day.

For example, a person's leisure-time activity may involve 30 minutes of walking, while total activity would include the calories burned while at rest plus walking.

More than 10 years later, the authors followed up with the participants to see if they had heart failure.

The study authors associated more leisure-time activity with a lower risk of heart failure. More total activity was also associated with a lower heart failure risk, but the association was not as strong.

The researchers split the participants into five equal groups depending on the amount they exercised.

The participants who exercised the most (half an hour of daily, vigorous exercise) were about half as likely as those who exercised the least to have heart failure.

The study authors also noted that exercise was equally helpful for women and men.

The authors recommended that people exercise for at least 150 minutes per week to maintain heart health.

"The largest risk reduction was between those with very low physical activity and physically inactive, with little additional effect of higher physical activity level," the authors wrote.

Dr. Parmar told dailyRx News how he encourages patients to get more active to lower heart risks.

""I find that in our hectic stressful lives, if I recommend daily 30-60 minutes exercise, then very few people are going to adhere to this advise. So, I tell patients simply to try 20-30 minutes of moderate activity for about three times per week (Saturday, Sunday and one of the week days)," he said.

"I let them try this and then I want them to intrinsically increase the times and frequency of the exercise sessions. Additionally, I give incentive by saying that by regular exercise not only will the heart disease risk decrease, but also there could be a chance to reduce the number of medicines they may be consuming," Dr. Parmar said.

"For example, with regular exercise, one could lose weight which in turn could potentially lead to reduction in blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes medicines. It is also possible to simply avoid these ailments," he said.

The study by Dr. Andersen and team was published Sept. 2 in Circulation: Heart Failure.

Ericsson, Ica Sweden and the Swedish Cancer Society funded the research. One of the researchers disclosed financial ties to Itrim, a weight-loss company.

Review Date: 
August 29, 2014
Last Updated:
September 9, 2014