A study has found that regular exercise can lower the risk of heart disease.

The risk of getting heart failure may be lowered by participating in moderate to vigorous physical exercise, according to new study that was published in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal Circulation. This conclusion was reached after a six-year review of more than 94,000 persons who were enrolled in the U.K. Biobank but had no prior history of heart failure.

One of the first studies to calculate the risk of heart failure using activity levels that can be evaluated with objectivity. According to past study, engaging in 150–300 minutes of moderate exercise or 75–150 minutes of strenuous exercise per week may lower the risk of heart attack and stroke.

When the heart is unable to pump enough blood to fulfil the body’s demands for blood and oxygen, heart failure develops over time and leads to exhaustion and breathing issues.

More than 6 million individuals in the US have heart failure, and more than 86,000 Americans died from it in 2019. This information comes from the American Heart Association.

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The Association recommends that adults exercise for at least 150 minutes per week at a moderate effort or 75 minutes at a strong intensity.

The risk of getting heart failure can be decreased in a variety of ways, according to 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.

For example, by reducing weight gain and the associated cardiometabolic disorders high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes, exercise reduces the chance of developing heart failure. Regular physical activity may also aid in heart muscle strengthening, delaying the onset of heart failure.

The researchers looked at the health records of 94,739 persons aged 37 to 73 in the U.K. Biobank, a huge research database in the United Kingdom that registered and gathered health information on 500,000 adults who got care via the National Health Service. Between 2006 and 2010, people of Scotland, England, and Wales who took part in the U.K. Biobank were added to the database.

The data for this study was acquired between 2013 and 2015. During that time, a subset of 94,739 people were randomly asked to enrol in the study using the email address they had provided to the U.K. Biobank.

At the time of enrolment, participants were 96.6% white adults with an average age of 56 and 57% female. Each subject was contacted, signed up for the study, and examined before being told they had heart failure or a heart attack. Each participant wore a wrist accelerometer for seven days straight, 24 hours a day, to monitor their level of physical activity. Following enrollment, data was acquired via connected hospital and death records.

The analysis showed that 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, compared to participants who engaged in little to no moderate or vigorous physical activity. The physical activity assessment was followed up on for an average of 6.1 years before these results were made. When calculating risk reductions, age, sex, ethnicity, education, socioeconomic position, smoking, alcohol use, and dietary variables were all taken into consideration.

These findings imply that each physical action counts. Walking slowly for 10 minutes is superior to sitting still. Ho also suggested attempting to walk a bit quicker to boost the intensity and possible health advantages of exercise.

The study’s findings, in Ho’s opinion, suggest that higher exercise than what the American Heart Association now recommends for moderate activity may provide greater protection against heart failure. According to him, moderate physical exercise can reduce cardiovascular risk by up to 500 minutes per week, depending on the needs of each person.

Ho and colleagues found that individuals with a BMI that falls within the overweight or obese range, high blood pressure, abnormally high glucose or cholesterol, and other heart failure risk factors may be more likely to benefit from increasing their physical activity.

Health care providers may suggest patients increase their physical activity levels based on their existing lifestyle and health, according to Ho. “In general, it is safer and easier to include modest physical exercise into everyday activities. The most time-efficient kind of exercise is frequently intensive physical activity, which may be beneficial for persons with hectic schedules. Everyone is encouraged to use caution while beginning a new physical activity regimen to prevent injuries or acute adverse effects (such as a heart attack in a previously sedentary individual beginning a strenuous exercise programme).”

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In this observational study, there is no clear relationship between physical activity levels and the risk of having heart failure. Since the majority of U.K. Biobank participants are white, more study is needed to determine whether these findings hold true for individuals from various backgrounds who could suffer from adverse socioeconomic determinants of health.

According to the principal author of the study, Naveed Sattar, “Our findings add to the vast body of prior data that shows that sustaining even a little level of regular physical exercise might help avoid the onset of a variety of chronic illnesses, including heart failure.” Sattar lectures metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Cardiovascular & Medical Sciences.

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