Starting Exercise Even in Older Age Cuts Heart Failure Risk

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(HealthDay News) -- Increasing patients' physical activity is an effective strategy to lower future risk of heart failure, according to a study published in the May issue of Circulation.

Roberta Florido, M.D., from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and colleagues evaluated how changes in physical activity affect heart failure risk over 19 years of follow-up among 11,351 participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study (mean age, 60 years; 1993 to 1995) without a history of cardiovascular disease.

The researchers found that 1,750 heart failure events occurred over the study period. The lowest heart failure risk was seen for those with persistently recommended activity (hazard ratio, 0.69), compared to those with consistently poor activity. Risk was also reduced among those whose physical activity increased from poor to recommended (hazard ratio, 0.77). For each one standard deviation higher physical activity at six years (approximately 30 minutes of brisk walking four times per week) was associated with significantly lower future heart failure risk among participants with poor baseline activity (hazard ratio, 0.89).

"Although maintaining recommended activity levels is associated with the lowest heart failure risk, initiating and increasing physical activity, even in late middle age, are also linked to lower heart failure risk," the authors write. "Augmenting physical activity may be an important component of strategies to prevent heart failure."

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