Regular walking may protect against heart failure post menopause

March 1, 2018, American College of Cardiology

Walking for at least 40 minutes several times per week at an average to fast pace is associated with a near 25 percent drop in the risk of heart failure among post-menopausal women, according to new research being presented at the American College of Cardiology's 67th Annual Scientific Session. The benefit appears to be consistent regardless of a woman's body weight or whether she engages in other forms of exercise besides walking.

About 6.5 million adults have , a condition in which the heart becomes too weak to pump enough blood to meet the body's needs. The risk of heart failure rises with age; women 75-84 years of age are three times as likely to have heart failure compared with women 65-74 years old.

"We already know that physical activity lowers the risk of heart failure, but there may be a misconception that simply walking isn't enough," said Somwail Rasla, MD, a cardiology fellow at Saint Vincent Hospital, who conducted the study during his residency at Brown University. "Our analysis shows walking is not only an accessible form of exercise but almost equal to all different types of exercise that have been studied before in terms of lowering heart failure risk. Essentially, we can reach a comparable energetic expenditure through walking that we gain from other types of physical activity."

Because walking can be done any time and doesn't require special equipment, the results put meaningful physical activity within reach for older women who may be hesitant to join a gym or begin a new workout routine.

The study, which analyzed walking behavior and health outcomes among 89,000 women over a more than 10-year period, is the first to examine, in detail, the benefits of walking by parsing the effects of walking frequency, duration and speed. It is also the first to specifically focus on the risk of heart failure among women over age 50.

The research is based on an analysis of data from the Women's Health Initiative, a large study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute that collected data about women's habits and health outcomes from 1991-2005. Participants were between 50 and 79 years of age at enrollment. Rasla and colleagues extracted data for women who, at baseline, were able to walk at least one block and did not have heart failure, or cancer.

Based on information from participant questionnaires, the women's walking behavior was categorized according to frequency, duration and speed. Researchers also assessed the women's overall energy expenditure from walking by combining all three of these variables into a calculation known as Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET). Those in the highest tertile for MET per week were 25 percent less likely to develop heart failure compared with those in the lowest tertile.

The findings suggest walking frequency, duration and speed each contribute about equally to this overall benefit. Women who walked at least twice a week had a 20 to 25 percent lower risk of heart failure than those who walked less frequently. Those who walked for 40 minutes or more at a time had a 21 to 25 percent lower risk than those taking shorter walks. Women walking at an average or fast pace showed a 26 and 38 percent lower risk of heart failure, respectively, compared with women who walked at a casual pace.

Researchers said the results were consistent across different age categories, ethnicities and baseline in post-menopausal women, suggesting the findings can be generalized to apply to most women above 50 years old.

"We actually looked at women with four different categories of body mass index (BMI) and found the same inverse relationship between walking behavior and the risk of heart failure," Rasla said. "The results show that even obese and overweight can still benefit from walking to decrease their risk of failure."

The analysis accounted for a variety of factors, such as smoking, alcohol use, family and medical history, use of hormones and overall amount of . Walking behavior was assessed based on self-reporting by participants during the study. Researchers were unable to account for the potential effects of exercise or walking habits earlier in life.

Explore further: Risk factors explain most heart failure risk in incident A-fib

Related Stories

Risk factors explain most heart failure risk in incident A-fib

June 19, 2017
(HealthDay)—Four modifiable factors account for most of the population attributable risk of heart failure among women with new-onset atrial fibrillation (AF), according to a study published online June 14 in JACC: Heart ...

Pregnant Asian women who develop high blood pressure at highest risk for heart failure hospitalization

November 14, 2017
Women who develop high blood pressure during pregnancy are more likely to experience heart problems within a few years of giving birth, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific ...

Moderate physical activity associated with lower risk of heart failure in men

August 12, 2015
Men who participated in moderate amounts of physical activity, particularly walking and bicycling, were associated with a lower risk of future heart failure compared to those with lower and higher levels of activity. However, ...

Study shows slow walking pace is good predictor of heart-related deaths

August 29, 2017
A team of researchers at the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre, UK - a partnership between Leicester's Hospitals, the University of Leicester and Loughborough University - has concluded that middle-aged people who ...

Walking below minimum recommended levels linked to lower mortality risk compared to inactivity

October 19, 2017
A new study concludes that walking has the potential to significantly improve the public's health. It finds regular walking, even if not meeting the minimum recommended levels, is associated with lower mortality compared ...

For adults younger than 78, risk for heart disease linked to risk for problems walking

November 20, 2017
Problems with balance, walking speed, and muscle strength become more common as we age, and can lead to disability. In fact, studies show that for older adults, having a slower walking speed can help predict chronic illness, ...

Recommended for you

Study reveals a promising alternative to corticosteroids in acute renal failure treatment

September 21, 2018
A protein produced by the human body appears to be a promising new drug candidate to treat conditions that lead to acute renal failure. This is shown by a study conducted at São Paulo State University (UNESP) in São José ...

Can a common heart condition cause sudden death?

September 20, 2018
About one person out of 500 has a heart condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). This condition causes thickening of the heart muscle and results in defects in the heart's electrical system. Under conditions ...

New drugs could reduce risk of heart disease when added to statins

September 20, 2018
New drugs that lower levels of triglycerides (a type of fat) in blood could further reduce the risk of heart attack when added to statins. These new drugs, which are in various stages of development, could also reduce blood ...

Mediterranean-style diet may lower women's stroke risk

September 20, 2018
Following a Mediterranean-style diet may reduce stroke risk in women over 40 but not in men—according to new research led by the University of East Anglia.

Inflammation critical for preventing heart attacks and strokes, study reveals

September 19, 2018
Inflammation, long considered a dangerous contributor to atherosclerosis, actually plays an important role in preventing heart attacks and strokes, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine reveals.

People who walk just 35 minutes a day may have less severe strokes

September 19, 2018
People who participate in light to moderate physical activity, such as walking at least four hours a week or swimming two to three hours a week, may have less severe strokes than people who are physically inactive, according ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.