Walking briskly at two miles per hour, exercising away 845 calories a week and limiting alcohol to two drinks a night can halve the risk of heart failure scientists have found.

Adults who walked briskly, were moderately active in their leisure time, drank moderately, did not smoke and avoided obesity were far less likely to develop heart problems.

Researchers in the US studied the lifestyles of 4,500 adults for two decades tracking their diet, walking habits, leisure activity, exercise, alcohol use, smoking status, weight, height, waist circumference and heart health through questionnaires and physical exams.

Researchers 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.

Intriguingly diet did not seem to make much difference to heart health.

“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,” said lead thor Dr Liana Del Gobbo, of Tufts University, Boston.

“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.

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Heart failure is a condition where the heart fails to pump as much blood as the body needs when the muscle becomes too weak or stiff to work properly. It leads to breathlessness, feeling very tired and ankle swelling.

It usually occurs following a heart attack and in its severest form heart failure has a life expectancy worse than many cancers.

More than 500,000 people in Britain suffer from the conditon, and almost as many have damaged hearts but, as yet, have no symptoms. Hundreds of patients require new hearts and 200 transplants take place in the UK each year. But two out of 10 people will die waiting for an organ due to a severe shortage of donors.

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Charities said the study showed that living a healthy lifestyle was crucial to preventing heart failure.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “More than half a million people across the UK have been diagnosed with heart failure, an incurable condition where your heart has been permanently damaged, often following a heart attack.

“This research shows that not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting plenty of exercise are associated with a significantly reduced risk of heart failure, a really debilitating disease.

“We know that even small changes can make a big difference to your heart health, and it’s never too late to start.

“Recent advances in regenerative medicine have made mending damaged hearts a realistic goal, but we must fund more research to make this happen.”

The research was published in the American College of Cardiology journal Heart Failure.

Source: The Telegraph
July 7, 2015
By , Science Editor