Working Out to Stop Heart Failure

Study to examine effects of exercise on heart failure

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SATURDAY, April 19, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A $37 million study to determine if a tailored exercise program can help heart failure patients live longer is being led by Duke University Medical Center cardiologists.

The 5-year, 3,000-patient randomized trial will be conducted at more than 50 American and Canadian hospitals. It's the first large-scale prospective trial meant to find out whether exercise can stave off death for people with heart failure and other diseases.

The study will also examine whether exercise has any effect on reducing hospital stays for that group of people.

"Smaller studies over the past 10 years have shown that exercise can do good things for heart failure patients, such as reduce levels of harmful hormones and improve physical activity. However, these studies weren't designed to uncover an effect on mortality and morbidity," Dr. Christopher O'Connor, principal investigator for the new trial, says in a news release.

Heart failure is a condition where the heart muscles aren't able to pump enough oxygen and nutrients in the blood to the body's tissues. It can be caused by infections of the heart, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, valve problems and previous heart attack.

About 4.7 million Americans have heart failure and about 400,000 new cases are reported each year. About 50 percent of people diagnosed with heart failure die within five years. There is no cure but drugs can improve heartbeat strength, relax blood vessels or remove excess fluid buildup in the lungs.

After providing a medical history and being given a medical examination, people taking part in this study will be assigned to receive either intensive exercise training or usual care.

The people in the exercise program will be given a personalized workout regimen. For the first three months, they'll exercise three times a week on a treadmill or stationary bicycle at the institution taking part in the study.

After that, they'll continue their exercise program at home for up to three years. The exercise equipment will be provided to them. Researchers will have frequent phone contact with the study subjects to monitor their health and to make sure they're continuing to exercise.

Anyone interested in taking part in the study can get more details at the trial's Web site.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about heart failure.

SOURCE: Duke University Medical Center, news release, April 15, 2003

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