Your lifestyle holds the key to reducing heart failure risk after 65

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Heart failure is one of the major reasons for increased hospitalisation for people over the age of 65 and researchers have suggested that the key to reduce the risk of heart failures, one must bring about changes in their lifestyle.

During adulthood people who have been walking briskly, moderately active during their leisure time, drank less to medium levels of alcohol, didn’t smoke and avoided obesity by sticking to strict or less-fat diet were have half the risk of suffering from a heart failure after the age of 65 than those adults who did not optimize these modifiable risk factors. Heart failure, a condition where the heart fails to pump as much blood as the body needs.

Researchers at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University monitored and tracked 4,490 men and women age 65 and older who didn’t initially have signs of heart failure for up to 21.5 years. During this period, Liana C. Del Gobbo, Ph.D., from the university and colleagues tracked participants’ diet, walking habits, leisure activity, exercise intensity, alcohol use, smoking status, weight, height, waist circumference and heart health through questionnaires and physical exams throughout the study period. During the study, 1,380 heart failure cases occurred.

The study found that adults who walked at a pace 2 miles per hour or faster had a lower risk of developing heart failure. Participating in leisure activities that burned more than 845 or more calories a week, not smoking, modest alcohol intake of one drink or more a week (but not more than 1-2 drinks/day), and avoiding obesity were also associated with reduced rates of heart failure.

Participants who optimized four or more of the healthy behaviors studied were half as likely to have heart failure as those with zero or one low-risk factors.

Researchers also tracked four different dietary patterns, including the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension or DASH diet, and a new diet score based on the American Heart Association’s 2020 Impact Goals, but found no relationship between dietary patterns studied and heart failure. Exercise intensity was not as important as walking pace and leisure activity.

“It’s encouraging to learn that older adults can make simple changes to reduce their heart failure risk, like engaging in moderate physical activity, not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight. 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” said lead author Liana Del Gobbo, PhD, research fellow at Tufts University.

In the accompanying editorial, David J. Maron, M.D., and Sharon A. Hunt, M.D., noted that it is difficult to assess lifestyle interventions in randomized controlled trials, the gold standard for medical treatments, but this analysis provides evidence to support inexpensive lifestyle interventions.

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

The study is published in JACC: Heart Failure.