Modest Lifestyle Changes May Markedly Reduce Heart Failure Risk

Liana C. Del Gobbo, PhDPostdoctoral Research Fellow Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy Tufts University Boston Interview with:
Liana C. Del Gobbo, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy
Tufts University Boston MA

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Del Gobbo: Heart failure most commonly develops in adults over 65 years old- the most rapidly growing portion of the US population. The condition greatly reduces the quality of life of older adults. Heart failure is the leading cause of hospitalizations in the US among those on Medicare, and is associated with large  health care costs. Prevention is key for reducing the burden of this disease.

A detailed analysis of factors that might help prevent heart failure, such as a person’s pattern of eating (as well as individual foods), in addition to other lifestyle factors (eg. smoking, physical activity, etc), had not been previously examined all together, in the same study.

To get a fuller picture of how to prevent this condition, this study examined the relative importance of dietary habits and other lifestyle factors for development of heart failure.

Our paper shows that older adults can cut their risk in half by adhering to a few healthy lifestyle factors, including moderate physical activity, modest alcohol consumption (eg. more than one drink/week, but not more than 1-2 drinks/day), not smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Del Gobbo: The take-home message is encouraging- older adults can make simple changes to reduce their heart failure risk, such as not smoking, engaging in moderate physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Our findings hold true for adults of both sexes, for older and younger seniors, and whether or not adults have pre-existing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or are on hypertensive medications.  For adults with chronic diseases, check with your doctor before starting or changing your exercise program.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Del Gobbo: We need to look into specific dietary determinants, such as sodium, and physical activity type, duration, and frequency in future studies and trials for heart failure prevention among older adults.

We need to better understand and integrate the determinants and relative contribution of lifestyle and other risk factors for heart failure beyond the scope of this work, including congenital defects, cardiomyopathies, drugs and/or toxins, renal dysfunction, and genetic risk predictors.


Del Gobbo LC, Kalantarian S, Imamura F, et al. Contribution of Major Lifestyle Risk Factors for Incident Heart Failure in Older Adults: The Cardiovascular Health Study. JCHF. 2015;3(7):520-528. doi:10.1016/j.jchf.2015.02.009.

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Liana C. Del Gobbo, PhDPostdoctoral Research Fellow (2015). Modest Lifestyle Changes May Markedly Reduce Heart Failure Risk 

Last Updated on July 8, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD