Among community-dwelling women aged 50 to 79 years, higher rates of physical activity were associated with lower rates of HF, researchers reported.
“This is the first study to report physical activity levels are related to a lower risk of developing heart failure with reduced ejection fraction in older adults, particularly in women,” Michael J. LaMonte, PhD, MPH, research associate professor of epidemiology in the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions, said in a press release. “This is pretty important from a public health standpoint, given the poor prognosis this type of heart failure has once it’s present.”
The researchers analyzed 137,303 women (mean age, 63 years) from the Women’s Health Initiative study without HF at baseline, stratifying them by level of physical activity as assessed by self-reported metabolic equivalents of task multiplied by hours per week (0 vs. > 0 to 7.2 vs. 7.3 to 17 vs. > 17).
During a mean follow-up of 14 years, the researchers documented 2,523 cases of HF, of which 451 were identified as HFrEF and 734 were identified as HFpEF.
After adjustment for age, race, education, income, smoking, alcohol, hormone therapy and hysterectomy status, compared with women who reported no physical activity, women who were physically active had reduced risk for HF, with the risk dropping the higher the level of physical activity (HR for tertile 1 = 0.89; HR for tertile 2 = 0.74; HR for tertile 3 = 0.65; P for trend < .001).
A similar trend was seen for HFrEF (HR for tertile 1 = 0.81; HR for tertile 2 = 0.59; HR for tertile 3 = 0.68; P for trend = .01) and HFpEF (HR for tertile 1 = 0.93; HR for tertile 2 = 0.7; HR for tertile 3 = 0.68; P for trend < .001).
According to the researchers, walking, the most common form of exercise for older women, was also inversely associated with HF risk (P for trend for HF and HFpEF < .001; P for trend for HFrEF = .01).
The results did not change when physical activity was analyzed as a time-varying exposure and were consistent regardless of age, BMI, diabetes, hypertension, physical function and CHD diagnosis.
“Because heart failure is much more common after age 60, and because its treatment is very challenging and costly, the possibility of preventing its development by promoting increased physical activity levels, and specifically walking, in later life could have an important impact on the overall burden of this disease in an aging society,” LaMonte said in the release. – by Erik Swain
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.