For years and years, doctors counted heart failure as one of the main reasons to restrict activity for heart patients. After a diagnosis of heart failure, patients were doomed to a life of restricted activity and progressive decline in health and attitude. But a new study has shown that even these patients can achieve excellent results with a good exercise program.
Researchers at Oxford University placed 11 patients with chronic, severe heart failure on a routine of regular exercise on stationary bicycles. Patients were rotated from an eight-week period of exercise to an eight-week stretch of restricted activity. The results were dramatic.
For those who followed their exercise prescription, both symptoms and measured physical condition improved as a result of the training. Exercise lowered the patients’ increased heart rate in response to a given load of effort, lengthened the time they could exercise, and improved their ability to extract oxygen from their blood. Patients also said they felt less breathless and fatigued and that they could do more during the day.
Heart failure refers to the heart muscle’s lessened ability to pump owing to the weakened heart wall. While that heart muscle isn’t likely to improve back to the level of a healthy individual’s, other muscles in the body become more efficient and thus require less blood and less oxygen. The entire cardiovascular system works more easily to meet the reduced oxygen demand of those trained muscles.
Yes, there are certain patients whose heart muscles are so weakened that no level of exercise may be possible. For them, a heart transplant may be the only practical treatment. But for countless others who have previously been denied the opportunity to improve via physical exercise, the British study offers wonderful encouragement.
Most of the patients were in their early sixties and were free of other complications such as severe arrhythmias. Of real importance, they were able to perform an adequate amount of exercise at home on stationary bicycles rather than having to come to a hospital. Now even heart failure has been taken off the list of contraindications for cardiac rehabilitation!
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Cardio & Blood/ Cholesterol
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