Healthy Habits = Happy Hearts

Healthy Habits = Happy Hearts

Reported September 15, 2011

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — If you’re good to your body, your heart will reward you. A new study reveals people can significantly reduce their risk for heart failure by partaking in four healthy behaviors: not smoking, keeping weight under control, getting regular exercise and consuming vegetables.

Heart failure is a chronic, progressive condition where the heart muscle cannot pump enough blood through the heart to meet the body’s needs for blood and oxygen. About 5.7 million Americans suffer from heart failure. At age 40, a person’s lifetime risk of developing heart failure is one in five.

In this new study, participants who had one healthy lifestyle behavior decreased their risk of heart failure, and each additional healthy behavior further decreased the risk. Engaging in all four healthy lifestyle behaviors decreased the risk for heart failure by 70 percent in men and 81 percent in women compared to 32 percent in men and 47 percent in women who engaged in only one healthy behavior.

Previous research has shown a link between healthy lifestyles and lower risks for heart failure in men, but this is the first to find similar reductions in women.

Researchers followed 18,346 men and 19,729 women from Finland. During an average follow-up of about 14 years, 638 men and 445 women developed heart failure.

“Any steps you take to stay healthy can reduce your risk of heart failure,” Gang Hu, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study and director of the Chronic Disease Epidemiology Laboratory at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., was quoted as saying. “Hypothetically, about half of new heart failure cases occurring in this population could have been prevented if everyone engaged in at least three healthy lifestyle behaviors.”

Among other results, the researchers found male smokers had an 86 percent higher risk for heart failure compared to never-smokers. Female smokers had a 109 percent higher risk. Being overweight increased heart failure risk by 15 percent in men and 21 percent in women compared to normal-weight individuals. Moderate physical activity reduced the risk of heart failure by 21 percent in men and 13 percent in women compared to a light physical activity level. Eating vegetables three to six times a week decreased heart failure risk by 26 percent in men and 27 percent in women compared to those who consumed veggies less than once per week.

SOURCE: Circulation: Heart Failure, September, 2011