Walking linked to lower heart failure in older women

Regular walking lowers older women's risk of heart disease.
Regular walking lowers older women's risk of heart disease.

The more a middle-aged or elderly woman walks, the less likely she is to have heart failure, a large new study reveals. Heart failure is the leading cause of hospitalisation among people aged 65 and older.

In South Africa, heart disease is a major killer and causes the death of a whopping 210 people every day.  

Walking throughout the day

Researchers say the findings are a first and concern otherwise healthy, postmenopausal women 50 and 70 years of age. The study tracked the exercise habits and heart health of more than 137 000 women since the early 1990s.

"This is a big finding insomuch as most adults are able to perform walking activities throughout the day, and often do so as part of usual activities of daily living without necessarily having planned walking as part of an exercise routine," said study lead author Michael LaMonte. He's a research associate professor in the School of Public Health and Health Professions at the University at Buffalo in New York.

The findings were published in the online edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Heart Failure.

While more walking was better, intensity of exercise was not a major factor in lowering heart failure risks, the study found. That suggests that the amount of activity and not how much effort is required was the key for preventing heart failure in the older women studied.

More research needed

The new findings have significant public health implications, because the number of people 60 and older in the United States is expected to double by 2035, with women outnumbering men two to one.

"It wouldn't surprise me if similar findings were reported in men," LaMonte said, adding more research is needed to confirm this.

On average, study participants were 63 years old. All self-reported the type, duration and intensity of their physical activity. They were tracked for an average of 14 years.

During that time, about 2 500 experienced heart failure.

Image credit: iStock

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