If they start in time, middle-aged people could reduce or reverse their risk of heart failure from years of sedentary living with a 2-year program including high- and moderate-intensity aerobic exercise.
This was the conclusion of a recent study, led by researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas and published in the journal Circulation, that revealed that exercise can reverse damage to aging hearts.
However, the cardiologists who carried out the research emphasize that the exercise must be done at least four to five times per week.
The team had shown in an earlier study that two to three times per week is not enough to protect against heart failure.
« Based on a series of studies performed by our team over the past 5 years, » explains senior study author Benjamin D. Levine, who is a professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern, « this ‘dose’ of exercise has become my prescription for life. »
He urges people to exercise as « part of their personal hygiene, » similar to showering and brushing teeth.
Heart failure is a serious condition in which the body’s cells do not receive a sufficient amount of oxygen and nutrients because the heart muscle is too weak to pump enough blood.
This leads to symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, coughing, and difficulty carrying out everyday things such as climbing stairs, walking, and carrying shopping.
Heart failure can be ongoing, or chronic, or it can be acute and develop suddenly. Although it can affect younger people as well, it is one of the most common reasons that people aged 65 and over are admitted to hospital.
Estimates made in 2016 suggest that there are around 5.7 million people living with heart failure in the United States, and only around half of those with the condition survive for longer than 5 years following diagnosis.