Exercise More, Sit Less to Prevent Heart Failure

Be more active and sit less and you’ll improve your chances of preventing heart failure.

That’s the message of the first study to provide evidence that high levels of sedentary time, even among physically active men, places them at risk for heart failure.

“The evidence of the effects of physical activity on heart failure is developing.

Our study adds to this by examining the associations in a large racially and ethnically diverse population.

We provide even more evidence that moving more and sitting less can lead to better health,” says lead author Deborah Rohm Young, PhD, research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation, Pasadena, CA.

Dr. Young and colleagues examined the electronic health records of nearly 83,000 men aged 45 years and older who were part of the California Men’s Health Study and had enrolled in Kaiser Permanente health plans in the Northern and Southern California regions.

The researchers published their results in the January 21, 2014 issue of the journal Circulation: Heart.

After monitoring these men for more than 10 years, they found that the risk of heart failure in those who reported high levels of sedentary time and low levels of physical activity was twice that in men who reported high physical activity and low sedentary time.

Although the researchers were not able to identify the types of exercise that the men did in the study, Dr. Young suggested that “brisk walking is a great form of physical activity.

It can be done almost anywhere, it does not require equipment, and most people of all ages can do it.”

She says that a brisk walk is “as if you’re in a hurry, and is defined as a 3- to 4-mile per hour pace or a 15- to 20-minute mile.”

To prevent heart disease, Dr. Young encourages men to meet the National Physical Activity Guideline—150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity.

“We are still learning about the detrimental effects of high daily sedentary time,” she says.

“At this point, there is no consensus on how much sedentary time is too much.

Plus, our study only asked about sitting time outside of work.

But given the number of health benefits from being physically active, people should find ways to put physical activity into their lives and spend less time sitting.”

At Kaiser Permanente, clinicians have initiated an “Exercise Vital Sign” program in which all members are asked about their physical activity at every outpatient visit.

“The information is recorded in their electronic health record and is available for the health care providers when they see the patient.

It provides an opportunity for the provider to counsel the patient on physical activity levels,” Dr. Young says.

She suggests that primary care physicians ask their patients about their regular physical activity.

“When it’s insufficient, patients need to hear that regular physical activity is important for their health.

Physicians can be powerful advocates in helping to promote this message.”

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