Heart Failure: Belly Fat Bad, Exercise Good
New Heart Failure Studies Show Increased Risk With Belly Fat
April 7, 2009 -- Belly fat may make heart
failure more likely, and exercise
may help heart failure patients.
That's the bottom line from three new studies on heart failure. Heart
failure does not mean that the heart has stopped working; it means the heart is
unable to pump enough blood to meet the body's needs.
The belly fat study is based on data from Sweden, where researchers followed
more than 80,000 men and women for up to seven years to see who developed heart
Participants reported their height, weight, and waist circumference at the study's
People with extra weight, especially around the waist, were more likely to
develop heart failure during the study.
Bigger waistlines were linked to greater risk of heart failure for women,
regardless of whether their BMI (body mass index) was normal, overweight, or obese. BMI and waist circumference both
predicted heart failure risk in men.
The belly fat findings appear in the advance online edition of
Circulation: Heart Failure.
Meanwhile, other researchers report in the Journal of the American
Medical Association that exercise can be safe and effective for heart
Their evidence comes from the largest study to date of exercise for heart
Exercise and Heart Failure Study
More than 2,300 heart failure patients in the U.S., Canada, and France took
part. They were screened to make sure they were healthy enough to exercise, and
said they were willing to work out.
The researchers divided the patients into two groups.
All of the patients got standard medical care for their heart failure. In
addition, one group of patients was assigned to get regular aerobic
Their workouts involved walking or using a treadmill or stationary bike three
times per week, starting with 15- 30 minutes per session and boosting their
workouts' length and intensity as the months passed.
Their first 36 workouts were supervised. After that, they were supposed to
exercise at home using the heart monitors and stationary bikes or treadmills
that the researchers supplied.
For comparison, patients in the other group weren't assigned to
Those patients could work out if they wanted to, but they didn't get any
exercise training as part of the study. Many of those patients -- 55% --
weren't thrilled to be in the no-exercise group, and 8% reported exercising
regularly throughout the study.
Overall, exercise was "well-tolerated and safe," write the researchers, who
included Christopher O'Connor, MD, of the Duke Clinical Research Institute in
Exercise also had a "modest" effect on lowering the likelihood of death or
After screening out certain high-risk patients, exercisers were 11% less
likely to die of any cause or be hospitalized for any cause during the study
and 13% less likely to die of cardiovascular causes or be hospitalized because
of heart failure, heart transplantation, or needing a heart pump implanted.
Quality of life was higher and disability was lower for the exercisers,
according to surveys they completed.