Risk of heart failure slashed if you have certain body feature

Around 900,000 people in the UK are affected by heart failure, which occurs when the heart is unable to pump blood around the body properly – and now scientists have revealed a physical feature that can predict your risk of the deadly condition.

The silent killer is often linked to a number of health problems, including heart attacks, high blood pressure and inherited heart disease.

Despite reports suggesting obesity is a risk factor for heart failure, researchers from Japan have stated that people with bigger legs are less likely to experience the condition. The experts from Kitasato University identified that patients with high quad strength had a 41 percent lower risk of developing heart failure following a heart attack.

As part of the study, scientists looked at the leg strength of around 1,000 people and found that for every five percent body weight increase in the legs, the chance of heart failure dropped by 11 percent.

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Kensuke Ueno, a co-author of the research said: "Strength training involving the quadriceps muscles should be recommended for patients who have experienced a heart attack to prevent heart failure."

The study was presented at a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology. Existing research has associated strength training with reduced blood pressure, protection against heart disease and improved circulation.

What are the main symptoms of heart failure?

If you have heart failure, it means your heart is unable to supply enough blood to meet your body’s needs – usually because it has become too stiff or weak.

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms may develop slowly or start suddenly. Here are the warning signs to watch out for:

  • Breathlessness after physical activity or at rest

  • Fatigue and weakness

  • Feeling lightheaded or fainting

  • Swelling in the legs, ankles and feet

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat

  • Reduced ability to exercise

  • Wheezing

  • A persistent cough or a cough that brings up white or pink mucus with spots of blood

  • Swelling of the belly area

  • Rapid weight gain from fluid build-up

  • Nausea and lack of appetite

  • Difficulty concentrating or decreased alertness

  • Chest pain if heart failure is caused by a heart attack.

If you are experiencing persistent or worsening symptoms of heart failure, you should visit your GP as soon as possible. Call 999 for an ambulance or visit your nearest A&E department immediately if you have sudden or very severe symptoms.

What causes heart failure?

NHS inform explains that many causes of heart failure are unknown, but the main conditions include:

  • Heart attack (coronary heart disease)

  • Inherited heart disease (for example, cardiomyopathy)

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)

  • Heart rhythm or valve abnormalities

  • Viral infection and damage from the immune system (myocarditis)

Lifestyle factors can also increase your risk of heart failure, especially for those with the listed conditions above. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests these unhealthy behaviours could also be to blame:

  • Smoking tobacco

  • Eating foods high in fat, cholesterol, and sodium

  • Not getting enough physical activity

  • Excessive alcohol intake

James Leiper, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said: “A larger waist measurement is often a sign that you have too much visceral fat, which sits around our internal organs and impairs the way our heart and blood vessels function.

“Heart failure is a chronic and incurable condition that worsens over time, so these findings underline the importance of managing your weight now.

“People who carry more weight around their middle have an increased risk of higher cholesterol, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.

“These risk factors are all closely linked with heart and circulatory diseases, which can then increase the risk of heart failure.”

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