Adults aged 65 years and older whose lifestyle included walking, being otherwise moderately active, drinking in moderation, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight had half the risk for heart failure as adults who did not have these lifestyle traits, according to a study published online ahead of print July 6 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Heart Failure. 

Lead author Liana C. Del Gobbo, PhD, followed 4,490 men and women aged 65 years and older who did not initially have signs of heart failure for up to 21.5 years. During the study, 1,380 cases of heart failure occurred. The researchers found that adults who walked 2 miles per hour or faster had a lower risk of heart failure. Also associated with reduced rates of heart failure were participating in leisure activities that burned more than 845 calories or more every week, not smoking, modest alcohol intake of one drink or more per week (but not more than one to two drinks per day), and avoiding obesity. The analysis found that participants who included four or more of these healthy behaviors in their lives were half as likely to have heart failure as those with one or none of these lifestyle characteristics. Intensity of exercise was not as important as walking pace and leisure activity.