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Expert advises on the number of daily steps needed to protect heart health

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A new study found that women aged 63-99 only needed an average of 3,600 steps per day to significantly reduce their risk of heart failure, much lower than the recommended 10,000.

Researchers tracked over 6,000 US women and found risks were 12-17% lower for every 70 minutes of light activity and 30 minutes of moderate activity.

Michael J. LaMonte, PhD, research professor of epidemiology and environmental health in UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions, said, “[This was] after accounting for differences in age, race and ethnicity, and clinical factors known to increase one’s risk of heart failure.”

He added, “That is far fewer than the often targeted 10,000 steps per day.”

LaMonte said, “Even the lighter-intensity activities of daily living and walking seem to be associated with a lower risk of heart failure in older women.”

“So, our data suggest that physical activity amounts and intensity below what’s currently recommended in public health guidelines could be beneficial for heart failure prevention in later life,” explained the researcher.

Risk increased 17% for every 90 minutes of sedentary time.

Even light daily activities and walking were linked to lower heart failure risk.

The most common type in older women, HFpEF, has few treatment options, so prevention is important.

According to LaMonte, “HFpEF is the most common form of heart failure seen in older women and among racial and ethnic minority groups, and at present there are few established treatment options — which makes primary prevention all the more relevant.”

“This type of heart failure is increasingly common in women, older adults and racial-ethnic minority groups,” he explained.

LaMonte warned, “Unfortunately, there presently are no established therapies to treat this heart failure subtype, making its prevention that much more important. The relevance only increases with population aging, as women are expected to outnumber men in the 80+ group over the coming decades.”

He added, “The potential for light intensity activities of daily life to contribute to the prevention of HFpEF in older women is an exciting and promising result for future studies to evaluate in other groups, including older men.”

Limitations included only measuring activity once and not having newer biomarkers.

Experts recommend older women aim for a mix of aerobic and weight training, and those inactive to see a doctor first before starting an exercise program.

Dr. Bradley Serwer, a cardiologist and chief medical officer at VitalSolution, said, “Regular exercise can help improve cardiovascular fitness by improving peripheral circulation, improving vascular tone, and controlling comorbidities such as high blood pressure, diabetes and hypercholesterolemia.”

“It is important to stay active both mentally and physically, especially over the age of 50,” advised the cardiologist.

LaMonte suggested, “A simple message for older adults is, ‘Sit less and move more.'”

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