A study that followed over 21,000 male doctors for two decades, measuring a variety of things including the influence of carrying a few extra pounds and physical activity on risk of cardiac heart failure has an important message – even a few extra pounds can be risky, especially if you’re not active.
For the non-medical among us, heart failure is a progressive inability of the heart muscle to pump blood though the body, and is often the prelude to major coronary “events”.
Sometimes called congestive heart failure (or CHF), there are almost 660,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the U.S.
Once heart failure develops, the statistics get even scarier…
80% of men, 75% of women over 65 will die of heart failure within eight years of diagnosis.
As the disease progresses, patients aren’t able to exert themselves because their “ailing” hearts can’t supply the body cells with oxygen, leaving them tired and short of breath.
The good news is that treatment options are expanding all the time, and today there are many things you and your doctor can do to help manage mild to moderate heart failure so that you continue to enjoy life.
What’s more, there are steps you can take today to keep heart failure from being part of your life.
If you have risk factors for heart failure like a family history, high cholesterol or you smoke, the steps you take now can make all the difference.
Being overweight is also a contributing factor to CHF, especially if your body mass index (BMI) is over 30.0.
This latest study looked at men who fell into the borderline overweight category – BMIs of 25.0 to 29.9.
Two thirds of Americans are members of this very same group, carrying those extra 10, 15 or even 25 pounds and not being very active (only about 30% of us are working out on a regular basis).
When the research began, 5% of the subjects were considered obese, another 40% overweight.
The doctors reported on their activity levels, defining exercise as activities that caused them to sweat.
Upon review of the data, the team found that there was a 49% increased incidence of heart failure in the overweight subjects as compared to those with BMIs under 25.0.
As you might expect, the obese subjects had an incidence far above that, a whopping 180% higher than their leaner counterparts.
Of the subjects who engaged in activity as little as one to three times per month there was an 18% reduction in heart failure risk. Those who were a bit more active – 5 to 7 times a week – showed a 36% reduction in risk.
It seems that the more active you are, the more of a reduction in heart failure risk you get.
“What this study shows is that even overweight men who are not obese have an increase in heart failure risk,” said Dr. Satish Kenchaiah, the lead author of a report discussing the finding in the December 23rd issue of the American Heart Association journal Circulation. Kenchaiah, now at the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute conducted the study as an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
The good news is that you didn’t have to be incredibly active to see a reduction in your cardiac heart failure risk. Even modest changes in how active you are (or the reduction in salt and fat in your diet) can make a difference.