Regular walking may protect against heart failure after menopause.
Women over 50 who walk regularly can cut their risk of heart failure by 20 percent or more.
That’s according to research that Somwail Rasla, MD, conducted while he was an internal medicine resident at Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island. He’s now a cardiology fellow at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester.
“We already know that physical activity lowers the risk of heart failure, but there may be a misconception that simply walking isn’t enough,” Rasla says. His study suggests it may very well be.
About 6.5 million adults have heart failure, meaning the heart becomes too weak to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Risk rises with age; women 75-84 years old are three times as likely to have heart failure compared with women 65-74 years old.
Rasla looked at how often, how long, and how fast 89,270 postmenopausal women walked over a period of 10 years. He found that each of these factors played a role in protecting the heart.
Women who walked at least twice a week had a 20 to 25 percent lower risk of heart failure than those who walked less frequently, according to the study. Those who walked for 40 minutes or more at a time had a 21 to 25 percent lower risk than those taking shorter walks. Finally, women walking at an average or fast pace showed a 26 and 38 percent lower risk of heart failure, respectively, compared with women who walked at a casual pace.
These benefits were consistent for all women in the study, no matter their age group, ethnicity, or BMI, Rasla adds. “The results show that even obese and overweight women can still benefit from walking to decrease their risk of heart failure,” he says.