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Mar 03, 2017

Heart Failure Risk Strongly Associated with Inactivity and Obesity

Large study of U.S. adults affirms a healthy lifestyle for prevention.

Staying active and maintaining a healthy weight go a long way in preventing heart failure, based on a recent study that found a strong link between physical activity, weight and heart failure risk.

Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, this study analyzed data from the Women’s Health Initiative, the Multiethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and the Cardiovascular Health Studies. All three are ongoing studies that track the health of U.S. adults to learn more about risk factors for heart disease and other health conditions.

The recent analysis included 51,451 participants initially free of heart failure that were followed for an average of 12.5 years. During the follow-up period, more than 3,100 participants developed heart failure. Among adults diagnosed with heart failure, roughly 1,250 had heart failure with preserved ejection fraction while 914 had reduced ejection fraction. Ejection fraction refers to how well the heart pumps blood out to the rest of the body. When it is reduced, participants are more likely to experience symptoms like extreme fatigue.

Overall, researchers found that lower body weight and the higher physical activity levels meant lower risk for heart failure. But among the subtypes of h0eart failure, a healthy weight helped reduce risk for heart failure with preserved ejection fraction the most. Compared to adults with no regular exercise, those that got twice the recommended levels of physical activity had 18% lower risk for heart failure with preserved ejection fraction.

Findings confirm that physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight are key to reducing overall risk for heart failure. They also suggest that healthy lifestyle choices are most effective in preventing heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, which is especially encouraging, since it’s particularly difficult to treat. Experts hope that findings raise awareness for the importance of a healthy lifestyle and encourage more adults to take steps to reduce their risk for heart failure.

Read the full article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Who is at risk for heart failure?

  • Risk for heart failure increases with age, and is most common in patients with heart disease or other cardiovascular conditions, such as arrhythmia or history of heart attack. 

  • What is ejection fraction?
  • Ejection fraction is a test used to measure the amount of blood leaving the heart each time it contracts.  Doctors typically measure ejection fraction when a patient shows signs of or is diagnosed with heart failure. Ejection fraction tells a doctor how well the heart pumps with each beat, which is used to determine the best possible treatment options to improve outcomes and quality of life.

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Infographic: Heart Failure