Is Lifestyle Associated With Lower HF Risk in Older Adults?

Older adults who walked briskly, were moderately active in their leisure time, drank moderately, didn’t smoke and avoided obesity, had half the risk of heart failure (HF) as adults who did not optimize these modifiable risk factors, according to a study published July 6 in JACC: Heart Failure.

The study, led by Liana C. Del Gobbo, PhD, from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, followed 4,490 men and women ages 65 and older who didn’t initially have signs of HF for up to 21.5 years, tracking their 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 HF cases occurred.

Researchers found that older adults who walked at a pace of two miles per hour or faster had a lower risk of developing HF. Participation in leisure activities that burned 845 or more calories a week, not smoking, modest alcohol intake of one drink or more a week (but not more than one to two drinks per day), and avoiding obesity were also associated with reduced rates of HF. Participants who optimized four or more of the healthy behaviors studied were half as likely to have HF as those with zero or one low-risk factors.

Researchers also tracked four different dietary patterns, but found no relationship between dietary patterns studied and HF. Exercise intensity was not found to be as important as walking pace and leisure activity. They note that moving forward, “randomized trials investigating physical activity type, duration, and frequency in more detail for the prevention of HF in older adults are needed.”

“It’s encouraging to learn that older adults can make simple changes to reduce their HF risk, like engaging in moderate physical activity, not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight,” said Del Gobbo. “Although dietary patterns were not related to HF risk in this study, eating a healthy diet is of critical importance for preventing other cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases.”

In an accompanying editorial, David J. Maron, MD, FACC, and Sharon A. Hunt, MD, MACC, noted that it is difficult to assess lifestyle interventions in randomized controlled trials, but that 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,” they explain. “We already know that these behaviors have ample health benefits, and prevention of HF may be an additional advantage.”

Clinical Topics: Diabetes and Cardiometabolic Disease, Heart Failure and Cardiomyopathies, Prevention, Acute Heart Failure, Diet, Exercise, Smoking

Keywords: Adult, Alcohols, Arctium, Body Weight, Cardiovascular Diseases, Chronic Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2, Diet, Habits, Heart Failure, Leisure Activities, Life Style, Nutritional Sciences, Obesity, Questionnaires, Research Personnel, Risk Factors, Smoke, Smoking, Universities, Waist Circumference, Walking

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