FRIDAY, Oct. 17, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- By detecting a person's inability to pump oxygen through their bloodstream while they exercise, doctors may be able to pinpoint early heart problems, says a study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.
The findings were presented Oct. 17 at the annual meeting of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation in Kansas City, Mo.
The researchers say measuring the amount of oxygen that can be circulated throughout the body during each heart beat while a person exercises could reveal early signs of heart trouble in people with mildly elevated blood pressure.
The study included 99 adults (44 men and 55 women), aged 55 to 75, who had mild hypertension but were otherwise healthy.
The subjects' heart size and performance at rest were measured and compared to their heart performance while walking on a treadmill. Their oxygen usage was also measured while they exercised.
Normally, people show a sharp increase in oxygen use during the first few minutes of exercise and that demand continues to rise with continued exercise. The load on the heart also increases as it works harder to meet the body's demands for increased oxygen carried by the blood.
"Our research shows that patients with mild hypertension have some reductions in heart function," researcher Kerry J. Stewart, director of clinical exercise physiology at Hopkins, says in a prepared statement.
"We found signs that their hearts were not operating efficiently during exercise, and this was matched with decreased heart function at rest as revealed by newer imaging methods. We need to get their blood pressure under control, even if it is only mildly elevated," Stewart says.
Further study is required to confirm whether this method is a useful screening tool for identifying heart problems.
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