Making this SIMPLE lifestyle change may slash heart failure risk, new study shows

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heart-failure-risk-reduced-by-exercise(NaturalHealth365)  Heart failure – a chronic, progressive disease that develops when the heart can’t pump enough oxygen-rich blood to keep up with the body’s needs – affects over six million adults in the United States.   Atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity are all risk factors for this potentially life-threatening condition, which claimed the lives of over 86,000 Americans in 2019 alone.

Experts report that controlling risk factors may not only ease the severity of heart failure symptoms and improve quality of life – but may help prevent its onset in the first place.  A new British study published just last month in the journal of the American Heart Association, Circulation, suggests that the simple act of getting more exercise can slash heart failure risk.  Read on to learn more about the undeniable benefits of this drug-free, non-toxic natural intervention.

Regular physical activity causes heart failure risk to drop by 66 percent

The six-year investigation, which involved over 94,000 older adults with no history of heart failure, used wrist accelerometers to measure the amount and intensity of exercise undertaken by participants.  The researchers reported that those who logged a weekly 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity (such as brisk walking) lowered their heart failure risk by a surprising 63 percent.

Those who performed 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity a week saw their odds of developing heart failure plummet by 66 percent.  Lead co-author Dr. Frederick K. Ho, Ph.D., noted that the findings added to the “overwhelming” body of evidence suggesting that even a modest amount of regular exercise could help prevent a range of chronic conditions.

Physical activity now considered an important “line of defense” against heart failure

Researchers and physicians have long extolled the virtues of exercise, which works in a multitude of ways to promote cardiac function.  For one thing, it helps to promote healthy weight, thereby discouraging obesity and other related conditions such as metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.  It also promotes healthy circulation and elimination, helping to detoxify and clear the body of waste and harmful compounds.

In addition, it improves oxygen utilization and reduces the release of inflammatory molecules in the body while alleviating stress, which has been shown to place a burden on the heart.  Finally – and most obviously – regular exercise helps to strengthen the muscles, including the most important muscle of all: the heart.  Unsurprisingly, researchers report that people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and obesity benefit the most from exercise.

Sedentary lifestyle harms heart health in MANY ways

With symptoms that include fatigue, wheezing, and shortness of breath, heart failure can, unfortunately, lead to a decreased capacity for physical activity.  However, exercise, when undertaken in a medically supervised program, appears to be highly beneficial for heart failure patients.  Multiple studies have shown that regular activity reduces hospitalizations and mortality while improving functional capacity, endothelial function, and quality of life.

On the other hand, physical inactivity not only contributes to heart disease, but it worsens the outcome once the condition develops.  In a study published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation, investigators found that 2.5 years after being admitted to the hospital for heart failure, only 25 percent of patients with a sedentary lifestyle were still alive.  (When this statistic is compared with the 75 percent survival rate of physically active patients, the life-saving effects of exercise are clear to see!)

How much physical activity is enough?

While vigorous exercise is more time-efficient and may suit the lifestyles of busy people, Dr. Ho, and the team appear to lean more towards moderate physical activity based on their current lifestyle and health status.  “Moderate physical activity is … generally safer,” Dr. Ho explained.  The good news is: brisk walking falls into the category of moderate activity.  If you’re already a fan of regular walks, Dr. Ho advocates upping your speed and walking briskly to increase the intensity and potential benefits.  And, if you find yourself inclined to do a bit more than the suggested amount, go for it (with the approval of your doctor, of course.  All exercise regimes for heart failure should be undertaken with medical supervision).

The study results suggest that going beyond the current AHA recommendations for moderate activity (150 to 300 minutes per week) could provide even greater protection against heart failure.  Just be careful not to overdo it, which can lead to injury or adverse events.  If walking isn’t your “thing,” other AHA-recommended forms of moderate exercise include ballroom dancing, water aerobics, and biking at speeds of under 10 miles an hour.

By the way, multiple studies and reviews have showcased the ability of hawthorn extract to reduce shortness of breath and fatigue while increasing exercise tolerance.  Other natural interventions include CoQ10, resveratrol, PQQ (pyrroloquinoline quinone), carnitine, taurine, and omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA.  As always, check with your integrative doctor before supplementing.

Even if you don’t hit your target goal of weekly exercise, physical activity is still beneficial – in virtually any amount or intensity.  According to Dr. Ho, “These (study) findings indicate that every physical movement counts.”  The most important thing, it appears,  is to simply start moving.  “A leisurely ten-minute walk,” concludes Dr. Ho, “is better than sitting and no physical activity.”

In other words, merely getting off the sofa and hitting the sidewalk or walking trail could add years to your life.  Happy strolling!

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