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Sep 03, 2014 09:50 AM EDT

Moderate or Vigorous Exercise May Lower Heart Failure Risk, Study

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More than an hour of moderate or half an hour of vigorous exercise on a daily basis can help lowering risk of heart failure by 46 percent, according to a new study by the Uppsala University in Sweden.

The researchers said that the finding once again highlights the importance of physical activity for all adults. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week or 40 minutes 3-4 times per week, to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

An estimated 5.7 million Americans suffer congestive heart failure and about 50 percent of them die within five years of their diagnosis.

For the study, Swedish researchers observed 39,805 people, aged between 20-90 years, who didn't experience heart failure at the beginning of the study in 1997.

Participants completed questionnaires that included information about lifestyle, physical activity, smoking and alcohol habits, and medication use.

The researchers measured their total physical activity that included job-related and leisure activities to determine its relation to their subsequent risk of developing heart failure. Participants' self-reported leisure physical activity was divided into three categories: light (casual walking); moderate (jogging or swimming) and heavy (competitive sports).

The researchers found that active participants were associated with lower their risk for heart failure. Heart failure were developed in older, male, with lower levels of education, a higher body mass index and waist-hip ratio, and a history of heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

"You do not need to run a marathon to gain the benefits of physical activity - even quite low levels of activity can give you positive effects," said Kasper Andersen, study co-author and researcher, in a press release. "Physical activity lowers many heart disease risk factors, which in turn lowers the risk of developing heart failure as well as other heart diseases."

"The Western world promotes a sedentary lifestyle," Andersen said. "There are often no healthy alternative forms of transportation; in many buildings it is hard to find the stairs; and at home television and computers encourage sedentary behavior.

"Making it easier and safer to walk, bicycle or take the stairs could make a big difference. Our research suggests that everyone could benefit from getting out there and moving every day."

The finding is published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Heart Failure.

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