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The simple habit that can reduce men's risk of heart failure

Nearly every day, 57-year-old Juan Bohorquez can be found exercising at his local track.

"I walk and I run one lap, which is about 1.6 miles," he told CBS News' Chris Martinez.

This type of moderate physical activity may help lower a man's risk of developing heart failure, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Heart Failure. And it only takes about 20 minutes a day to reap the greatest benefits.

"Whether it's for diabetes management, hypertension, preventing heart disease, certain cancers, this is another indication for exercise at a moderate level," said Dr. Steven J. Keteyian, Director of Preventive Cardiology at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Heart failure occurs when the heart is no longer able to pump as much blood as the body needs to support other organs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 5.1 million people in the United States suffer from heart failure.

For the study, researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm followed over 33,000 Swedish men from 1998 until 2012 - or their first event of heart failure - to determine if physical activity was associated with heart failure risk. The results showed that both low and very high levels of exercise could increase risk of heart failure.

"There was a slight uptick in risk for those people that were highly active, heavy exercisers, and did an awful lot of activity throughout the day," Keteyian said. "I think the caution would be is if you engage in that level of exertion, make sure your doctor is aware."

The researchers also asked the participants, who were an average age of 60 years old, to report their exercise habits both in the prior year and retrospectively to when they were 30 years old. After analyzing the data, they found that men who were physically active at age 30, but not at the time of the study, did not have a decreased risk of heart failure. In other words, someone who used to exercise but let it slide eventually lost the benefit.

"Because participants in the study cohort had also provided information about their physical activity at age 30, as well as at the time of enrollment around age 60, we were able to examine the long-term impacts of physical activity on heart failure," study author Andrea Bellavia said in a statement. "We found that recent activity may be more important for heart failure protection than past physical activity levels."

Certain types of moderate physical activity, such as walking and bicycling for 20 minutes per day, were associated with the largest reduction in heart failure risk, the study authors said.

For his part, Bohorquez encourages other men to get active. "Definitely get off the couch and run or walk a half hour a day, every day," he said.

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