WASHINGTON: According to new research published today in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation, engaging in moderate or vigorous physical activity may reduce the risk of developing heart failure. This finding comes from a six-year analysis of more than 94,000 adults in the U.K. Biobank who had no history of heart failure at enrollment.
It’s one of the first studies to estimate the risk of heart failure using objectively measured activity levels. Performing 150-300 minutes of moderate exercise or 75-150 minutes of vigorous exercise each week may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, according to earlier research findings.
Heart failure is a chronic, progressive condition that causes fatigue and breathing difficulties when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs for blood and oxygen.
According to the American Heart Association, more than 6 million adults in the country suffer from heart failure, and more than 86,000 Americans passed away from the condition in 2019. Adults should exercise for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity each week, according to the Association.
Frederick K. Ho, PhD, a lecturer in public health at the University of Glasgow in Glasgow, Scotland, and a co-lead author of the study said that there are numerous ways that regular physical activity may lower the risk of developing heart failure.
For instance, exercise lowers the risk of developing heart failure by preventing weight gain and the related cardiometabolic conditions high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. Regular exercise may also help to strengthen the heart muscle, preventing the onset of heart failure.
In the U.K. Biobank, a sizable research database in the United Kingdom that enrolled and collected health information on 500,000 adults who received care through the National Health Service, the researchers examined the health records of 94,739 adults aged 37 to 73. Scotland, England, and Wales residents who participated in the U.K. Biobank were added to the database between 2006 and 2010.
Between 2013 and 2015, data for this study was gathered. Through the email address they had given to the U.K. Biobank, a subset of 94,739 participants was randomly invited to sign up for the study during that time period. Participants were 96.6% white adults with an average age of 56 at enrollment, and 57% of them were female.
Each participant was invited, enrolled, and analysed before receiving a heart failure or heart attack diagnosis. For seven days straight, 24 hours a day, each participant wore a wrist accelerometer to track their level of physical activity. Following enrollment, information was gathered using hospital and death records that were linked.
The analysis revealed that, compared to participants who engaged in little to no moderate or vigorous physical activity, adults who completed 150-300 minutes of moderate physical activity in a week had a 63% lower risk of heart failure, and those who completed 75-150 minutes of vigorous activity in a week were estimated to have a 66% lower risk. These findings were made over the course of a median follow-up of 6.1 years following the physical activity measurement.
Age, sex, ethnicity, education, socioeconomic status, smoking, alcohol consumption, and dietary factors were all taken into account when estimating risk reductions.
These results suggest that every physical action matters. A leisurely 10-minute walk is preferable to inactivity and sitting. Additionally, Ho advised trying to walk a little bit faster to increase the intensity and potential health benefits of exercise.
According to Ho, the study’s findings imply that exercising more than what the American Heart Association currently advises for moderate activity may offer greater protection against heart failure. He said, “We discovered that moderate physical activity has the potential to increase cardiovascular risk benefits up to 500 minutes/week, as appropriate for each individual.
According to Ho and colleagues, people who have a BMI that meets the criteria for being overweight or obese, high blood pressure, elevated glucose or cholesterol, and other risk factors for heart failure may be especially likely to benefit from increasing their physical activity.
According to a patient’s current lifestyle and health status, health care professionals might advise them to engage in more physical activity, Ho said. In general, moderate physical activity is safer and simpler to incorporate into daily routines.
Being physically active vigorously can often be the most time-effective and may be better for people who are busy. To avoid injuries or acute adverse events (such as a heart attack in a previously sedentary person beginning a vigorous exercise programme), caution is advised for everyone when starting a new physical activity regimen.
The amount and intensity of physical activity and the risk of developing heart failure cannot be directly linked in this observational study. Further research would be required to confirm that these findings apply to people from diverse backgrounds who may experience negative social determinants of health because U.K. Biobank participants are predominately white.
Naveed Sattar, the study’s senior author, said, “Our findings add to the overwhelming body of other evidence that suggests that maintaining even a modest amount of regular physical activity can help prevent the onset of a range of chronic conditions, including heart failure.” At the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Cardiovascular & Medical Sciences, Sattar teaches metabolic medicine.