Women: Slash Your Risk of Heart Failure by 25%

Your heart has been working non-stop, since before you were even born. Over the average lifespan, the human heart beats approximately 2.5 billion times.

Yet too many people neglect their heart health until a problem arises.

But today, I’m going to tell you how you can head these problems off at the pass—in less time than it takes you to watch an episode of Wheel of Fortune. More on that in just a minute. But first, let’s take a closer look at one of the biggest threats to your heart…

A sedentary American lifestyle is killing us

According to a 2019 report from the American Heart Association, nearly half of Americans have some form of heart disease. It remains the leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, in the U.S., one person dies of heart disease every 37 seconds.

And one of the top threats to your heart is not getting enough exercise. According to the American College of Cardiology, lack of physical activity increases your risk of heart disease by nearly 23 percent.

Fortunately there’s an extremely simple, cost-free solution that can slash your risk…

Go for a walk.

The life-saving benefits of walking

Based on results from the latest research, the benefits of walking are undeniable.

For 10 years, researchers from the American College of Cardiology analyzed the walking behavior and health outcomes of 89,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79.

They found that:

  • Walking for at least 40 minutes several times a week decreased risk of heart failure by 25 percent.
  • Walking at least twice a week decreased risk of heart failure by 20 to 25 percent
  • Walking at an average or fast pace decreased risk of heart failure by 26 and 38 percent, respectively, compared to walking at a casual pace.

“We already know that physical activity lowers the risk of heart failure, but there may be a misconception that simply walking isn’t enough,” said Dr. Somwail Rasla, one of the lead researchers. “Our analysis shows walking is not only an accessible form of exercise but almost equal to all different types of exercise that have been studied before in terms of lowering heart failure risk.”

In other words,  you don’t need an expensive gym membership, a complicated workout routine, or special equipment. Walking is just as effective at protecting your heart as a high-intensity workout. 

And you can do it anytime, anywhere. Just put on your shoes and go!

Five ways to triple your “Heart Walk” health benefits

To maximize walking’s health benefits, I developed a technique that I like to call the “Heart Walk.”

The idea is simple: When I walk, I do it with the intention of improving my heart health.

Instead of mindlessly “going through the motions,” I’m purposefully taking action to improve.

A Heart Walk is deliberate but simple. Just follow these five steps:

  1. Set an alarm. Carve out time every day to dedicate to your health. I’ve scheduled daily reminders in my smartphone that let me know when it’s time to do my Heart Walk.

  2. Set your intention. At the start of your walk, think to yourself, “This is going to help my heart.” Repeat it to yourself a few times during the walk if you’d like.

    Practices like this aren’t just wishful thinking…

    A 2017 study found that intention-setting can help improve the overall outcome of a stated goal.

  3. Be mindful of your senses. As you walk, observe the sights, sounds, and sensations around you. For instance, focus on the feeling and smell of the breeze across your face.

    According to Harvard researchers, being mindful of your senses can offer a wealth of proven benefits like decreases in stress and blood pressure—two factors that certainly play a critical role in heart health.

  4. Breathe in rhythm with your steps. I wrote about this powerful healing technique, which I like to call “Rhythmic Breathing for Walking,” in a recent article. (Click here to give it a read.)

  5. Do a quick vagal “workout.” Toward the end of your Heart Walk, do a vagal nerve stimulation exercise—like humming—for about five minutes.

    This will help strengthen your vagal tone—a key indicator of overall health that measures your resiliency to stress.

    If you’d like to learn more about vagal tone, check out this article I wrote. (And for over 30 exercises that specifically target your vagal tone, try the guided tutorials in my online course, Whole Body Sound Healing System. Click here to learn more or get started today.)

According to the study I told you about above, participants who walked for 40 minutes two or three times a week reaped the greatest benefits. But other research (including two long-term studies from Harvard) shows that walking for just half that amount of time—about 20 minutes a day—can decrease the risk of heart disease by as much as 30 percent.

Even if you can only walk for five minutes to start, doing something is always better than nothing. Stick with it, and work your way up from there.

Above all, keep in mind that your heart is working hard all day, every day. And if you give it a little tender loving care, you’ll add happy, healthy years onto your life—and enjoy each and every one of those 2.5 billion heartbeats.


SOURCES:

Bumgardner, W. (2020). How to Breathe for Better Walking. VeryWellFit.com. Retrieved from: verywellfit.com/breathing-how-to-breathe-when-walking-3435393

Heart Disease Facts. (2019). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from: cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm#:~:text=Heart%20disease%20is%20the%20leading,1%20in%20every%204%20deaths.

Marching orders: How to start a walking program. (2015.) Harvard Health Publishing.  Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/marching-orders-how-to-start-a-walking-program

Napoli, N., (2018). Regular Walking May Protect Against Heart Failure Post Menopause. American College of Cardiology. Retrieved from: acc.org/about-acc/press-releases/2018/02/27/11/53/regular-walking-may-protect-against-heart-failure-post-menopause

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. (2019). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from: hhs.gov/fitness/be-active/physical-activity-guidelines-for-americans/index.html

Pirollia, P. (2017). Implementation Intention and Reminder Effects on Behavior Change in a Mobile Health System: A Predictive Cognitive Model. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 19(11): p. e397. Retrieved from: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5730820/

Senior Report: Physical Activity. (2019). America’s Health Rankings. Retrieved from: https://www.americashealthrankings.org/explore/senior/measure/physical_inactivity_sr/state/ALL

Webb, S. (2019). AHA 2019 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics. American College of Cardiology. Retrieved from: acc.org/latest-in-cardiology/ten-points-to-remember/2019/02/15/14/39/aha-2019-heart-disease-and-stroke-statistics

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About the author

Jim Donovan M.Ed., is a professional musician and educator. He's an Assistant Professor at Saint Francis University where he teaches music and how the power of sound can help you experience a healthier life.