2000 Daily Steps Lower Heart Failure Risk in Older Women: Study


The equivalent of walking one mile a day has been shown to reduce the risk of and even improve symptoms of heart disease.

Researchers have discovered a link between taking at least 2,000 steps per day and a decreased risk of heart failure in older women. A recent study found that participants who completed daily physical activity were less likely to develop heart failure than those who led a more sedentary lifestyle.

The study, conducted at the University at Buffalo-SUNY and published in JAMA Cardiology, examined 5,951 women between 63 to 99 years of age. Participants were 49.2 percent white, 33.7 percent black, and 17.2 percent Hispanic. None of the participants had been diagnosed with heart failure at the time of the study.

The women wore a 24-hour monitor for seven days and were followed up after approximately seven years had passed. During follow-up, researchers found that participants whose monitors measured higher amounts of physical activity (regardless of the level of intensity or strenuousness) and at least 2,000 steps per day had a lower risk of developing heart failure. Conversely, participants who were more sedentary and took less than 2,000 steps per day demonstrated a higher risk of developing heart failure.

Study Findings Explained

The researchers noted that these findings have “profound public health and clinical relevance,” explaining that heart failure disproportionately impacts women and minorities and that 2,000 steps per day are “far less than the often touted 10,000 steps per day for promoting health benefits.”

“This study highlights the importance of physical movement to improve the risk of heart failure in aging women,” Michelle Routhenstein, a preventative cardiology dietitian, told The Epoch Times in an email. “These results are not surprising because research has consistently shown the benefits of regular physical movement on heart health. However, the additional focus on accelerometer-measured activity provides more reliability to these findings.”

What Is Heart Failure?

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart cannot pump an adequate amount of blood and oxygen throughout the body. Over time, this can be detrimental, since the body’s organs require a steady supply of blood and oxygen to function properly.

“It is a common, complex syndrome characterized by symptoms of shortness of breath, fatigue, weight gain, stomach/abdominal and leg swelling, and a disorder whereby the heart cannot pump blood to the body at a rate in line with the body’s needs,” Dr. Mustali Dohadwala, told The Epoch Times. Dr. Dohadwala is a cardiologist and medical director of Heartsafe, a private practice in Boston, Massachusetts that specializes in cardiovascular health.

Having other medical conditions can increase your chances of developing heart failure, such as coronary artery disease, a history of heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. “Heart failure can be caused by any condition that impairs the heart’s ability to fill with or eject blood,” explains Dr. Dohadwala.

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Ms. Routhenstein notes that symptoms may not appear until the later stages, explaining, “It is important to address modifiable risk factors and seek medical attention if any symptoms arise, as early diagnosis and treatment can help manage the condition and improve quality of life.”

How Does Physical Activity Affect Heart Failure Risk?

Although cardiac function naturally declines as we age, research confirms that physical activity can result in reduced incidents of heart failure in older people. This occurs because physical activity can help reduce or even eliminate modifiable risk factors, as well as improve the overall physiological health of the heart and circulatory system.

“Risk of heart failure is reduced with physical activity,” confirms Dr. Dohadwala. “Reducing the development of traditional cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and diabetes leads to favorable cardiac remodeling, reduced vascular stiffness, improved ventricular compliance, and restored neurohormonal balance.”

Even for those who have already been diagnosed with heart failure, research suggests that regular physical activity can provide benefits and lessen symptoms in some individuals. In fact, physical inactivity has been linked to higher mortality rates for patients with cardiovascular disease.

“Physical activity is helpful even if you were diagnosed with heart failure. However, the intensity and duration may need to be adjusted to avoid excess strain. Before starting any exercise program, individuals with heart failure should consult with their healthcare provider. A healthcare professional can assess their specific condition, overall health status, and any potential limitations, and provide personalized recommendations,” Ms. Routhenstein advises.

Dr. Dohadwala agrees, stating, “Exercise activities should only be started after completion of an exercise training program and an exercise prescription is written by a healthcare practitioner. Otherwise, aside from activities that can very suddenly increase the blood pressure or heart rate such as heavy weightlifting, there are no activities to avoid, per se. But it’s important not to get overexerted.”

Overall, Dr. Dohadwala believes this study can “further increase awareness regarding the importance of physical activity, beyond the well-known benefits of weight loss, blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol control, as it can also reduce the potential for developing heart failure.”

The study also confirms that a relatively small amount of steps per day can have a dramatic impact on a person’s long-term heart health.

Ms. Routhenstein agrees with this notion, stating, “The findings emphasize the importance of avoiding a sedentary lifestyle, and paying attention to movement throughout the day to keep the heart strong. I think more research can highlight how heart failure is preventable through lifestyle changes, and we can prevent it if we are more proactive in our health.”

Based on the findings of this study, Dr. Dohadwala believes there is significant potential for future research studies to explore other specific aspects of physical activity and how they can influence heart failure risk.

“It would be interesting to further research if a particular type of physical activity (i.e. Tai Chi vs. walking vs. swimming vs. tennis), as well as the particular time of day the physical activity is performed might correlate with risk of developing heart failure,” says Dr. Dohadwala. “It would also be interesting to perform a longitudinal study of physical activity (type/form, duration, frequency, competitive, recreational) performed by teenagers and their subsequent risk of developing heart failure as middle and elderly-aged adults.”


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