Walking about 4000 steps could help prevent heart failure

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A recent study conducted by the University at Buffalo has shed new light on the optimal amount of physical activity for older women, challenging the widely held belief that 10,000 steps per day are necessary for health benefits.

Published on February 21 in JAMA Cardiology, this study reveals that as few as 3,600 steps per day can significantly reduce the risk of heart failure in women aged 63 to 99 by 26%.

This research, part of the Women’s Health Initiative, focused on nearly 6,000 U.S. women, tracking their physical activity through accelerometers. Over a follow-up period of 7.5 years, 407 cases of heart failure were confirmed.

The study intriguingly found that not just the quantity but the intensity of daily activities matters.

Light intensity activities, such as household chores or walking at a normal pace, decreased heart failure risk by 12% for every 70 minutes per day, while moderate-to-vigorous activities, like climbing stairs or yard work, offered a 16% risk reduction for every 30 minutes per day.

Conversely, each additional hour-and-a-half of sedentary behavior was linked to a 17% increased risk of heart failure.

The study’s lead author, Michael J. LaMonte, Ph.D., points out the significance of these findings, especially for preventing heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF)—the most common heart failure subtype in older women and racial and ethnic minority groups, which currently has limited treatment options.

Encouragingly, the research suggests that incorporating light intensity activities into daily life could be a feasible and effective prevention strategy.

Moreover, the study innovatively used the number of steps per day as a metric to quantify physical activity benefits.

It found that the risk of heart failure significantly decreased at around 2,500 steps per day, with a standardized measure of 3,600 steps per day correlating with a 25–30% lower risk of heart failure and HFpEF.

These findings are particularly relevant as the U.S. government reevaluates physical activity guidelines for older adults, moving away from the daunting 10,000 steps per day metric.

With the average number of steps per day for women in the study at 3,588—close to the identified beneficial level—the research underscores the accessibility of achieving such a target.

LaMonte emphasizes the practicality of using steps per day as a measure, given its ease of tracking through wearable devices, making it a straightforward goal for older adults aiming to improve their cardiovascular health.

This study not only contributes valuable insights into heart failure prevention but also highlights the need for tailored physical activity recommendations that consider the capabilities and needs of older adults.

By focusing on achievable daily step goals, it offers a promising path forward for enhancing heart health and longevity in the aging population.

If you care about heart disease, please read studies that herbal supplements could harm your heart rhythm, and how eating eggs can help reduce heart disease risk.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies that apple juice could benefit your heart health, and results showing yogurt may help lower the death risks in heart disease.

The research findings can be found in JAMA Cardiology.

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