(HealthDay News) – For middle-aged adults, increasing fitness in midlife is associated with a decrease in the risk of heart failure, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research 2013 Scientific Sessions, held from May 15–17 in Baltimore.

Ambarish Pandey, MD, from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and colleagues estimated fitness in metabolic equivalents (METs) among 9,050 adults (mean age, 48 years) in two measurements conducted approximately eight years apart.

The researchers observed 242 hospitalizations for heart failure after 60,635 person-years of Medicare follow-up. Adults who increased their fitness levels had a lower rate of hospitalization for heart failure compared to those with persistently low fitness levels (0.64% vs. 0.88% per year). Each MET increase in middle-age fitness correlated with a significant, 5% decrease in the risk of heart failure hospitalization in later life, after adjustment for baseline fitness level and other risk factors.

“People who weren’t fit at the start of the study were at higher risk for heart failure after age 65,” Pandey said in a statement. “However, those who improved their fitness reduced their heart failure risk, compared to those who continued to have a low fitness level eight years later.”

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