20 minutes exercise to cut heart failure risk

Cycling or walking 20 mins a day cut risk most for men aged 60. Picture: Getty
Cycling or walking 20 mins a day cut risk most for men aged 60. Picture: Getty
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WALKING or cycling 20 minutes a day can reduce a 60-year-old man’s risk of heart failure by a fifth, a study has found.

Researchers who monitored 33,000 Swedish men from 1998 to 2012 found that the least active were at highest risk of heart failure, when the heart becomes too weak to pump enough blood around the body.

Analysis of the most beneficial forms of activity showed walking or cycling for 20 minutes a day cut the risk the most, even more than heavy, prolonged exercise.

The men, who had an average age of 60, filled out a questionnaire about their exercise levels the previous year. They also recalled how active at age 30.

Recent exercise had a bigger impact on risk than historical behaviour, the study found.

Study author Andrea Bellavia, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, said: “We found that recent activity may be more important for heart failure protection than past physical activity levels.

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“The first incidence of heart failure in men was also later for those who actively walked or bicycled 20 minutes each day.”

The research, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Heart Failure, suggests that compared with moderate exercise levels, both too little and too much activity increase the relative risk of the condition. “The U-shaped relationship between exercise levels and the likelihood of subsequent heart failure is a unique finding and will stimulate further research in the important field of prevention,” said Dr Christopher O’Connor, the journal’s editor-in-chief.

Meanwhile doctors are using a new tool to create a 3D image of a patient’s coronary arteries in a “pioneering” technique to diagnose and manage heart disease. The technology, known as fractional flow reserve computed tomography (FFRCT), developed by US company HeartFlow, creates a detailed 3D model of a patient’s coronary arteries from a standard CT scan image.

It then uses complex calculations to work out the extent of blockages in the coronary arteries and if they are restricting the flow of blood – all without the need for invasive intervention.

Professor Nick Curzen, a consultant cardiologist at Southampton General Hospital, said the system could become the default method for the initial assessment of patients with chest pain after he presented a study that showed it changed treatment plans in more than a third of cases.

Coronary heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, develops when a build up of fatty substances silts up or blocks the blood supply to the heart.

It is the most common cause of angina – chest pain – and heart attacks and is responsible for 73,000 deaths in the UK every year.