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Can one hour of daily exercise cut heart failure risk nearly in half?

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Physically active people may face lower risk of developing heart failure than their more sedentary counterparts. OK, maybe that sounds somewhat obvious. But scientific research now supports the case.

The American Heart Association reported September 2 on a new study in its Circularion: Heart Failure journal. According to a recent study, conducted in Sweden with almost 40,000 human subjects, an hour of moderate exercise or half an hour of more physically demanding exercise can lower a person’s heart failure risk by some 46 percent.

The study asked participants about their lifestyle habits and physical exercise routines.

Heart failure carries a mortality risk of 30 percent to 50 percent within five years of diagnosis, the study publication cited. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, blamed for close to 380,000 annual deaths.

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What specifically did the heart failure and exercise study find?

Apparently, subjects who exercised daily enjoyed lower heart failure risks. Physical exercise proved equally helpful for individuals of both genders, in terms of heart health.

As might be expected, those who eventually experienced heart failure were overwhelmingly older, male, and less active. These tended to have higher body mass indexes and waist-to-hip ratios, as well as health histories including such conditions as diabetes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

What sort of exercise works best, in preventing heart failure?

The trick seems to be faithful and regular participation in some form of physical activity. From casual walking to hikes and road runs to biking and swimming, everything counts.

“You do not need to run a marathon to gain the benefits of physical activity — even quite low levels of activity can give you positive effects,” said Kasper Andersen, M.D., Ph.D., study co-author and researcher at the Uppsala University in Uppsala, Sweden. “Physical activity lowers many heart disease risk factors, which in turn lowers the risk of developing heart failure as well as other heart diseases.”

Even before the study was published, the American Heart Association recommended at least 150 minutes moderate physical activity each week for healthy people. That translates to two and a half hours as a weekly total, or just over 20 minutes per day.

“Our research suggests that everyone could benefit from getting out there and moving every day,” Andersen added. Clearly, physicians and physical fitness trainers who have urged folks to exercise regularly were onto something.