Exercise improves life for heart failure patients
Nov 16, 2008 - 11:31:16 AM

Washington, Nov 13 - Heart failure patients who regularly exercised felt better than similar patients who did not work out regularly, say Duke University Medical Centre researchers after a new study.

These findings go a long way toward addressing concerns about the value of exercise for the five million patients in the US with heart failure.

'The HF-ACTION study shows that exercise is not only safe for patients, but also helps to improve the quality of their lives, overall,' said Kathryn Flynn, researcher at Duke Clinical Research Institute - and co-author of the study.

HF-ACTION is the largest clinical trial to date examining the value of exercise in the treatment of heart failure. Investigators enrolled 2,331 patients with moderate to severe heart failure at 82 sites throughout the US, Canada and France from 2003 to 2008.

The regimen consisted of three months of supervised aerobic training on a bicycle or treadmill, followed by instruction for continued home-based training, according to a Duke release.

Researchers set the exercise goal at five 40-minute workouts, or 200 minutes of exercise per week. Participants reached about 60 percent of that goal after one year.

Participants had significant heart failure upon entering the study. Ninety-five percent were taking medications for heart failure, such as ACE-inhibitors or beta-blockers, and 40 percent were using mechanical devices to boost their hearts' ability to pump or to treat arrythmias -.

The average age of the patients was 59 while 28 percent were women.

Upon enrolment, patients filled out the Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire -, a 23-item measure shown to be responsive to underlying clinical changes in patients with heart failure.

At three months, patients in both groups showed improvement, with patients in the usual care group registering a three-point gain on the KCCQ score and those in the exercise group showing a five-point gain. Previous reports had defined a five-point gain as clinically significant.

Researchers also found that a higher percentage of those in the exercise group experienced more robust gains. At three months, 54 percent of those in the exercise group saw a five-point gain in overall KCCQ score, while only 28 percent of those in the usual care group met that goal.

These findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2008.

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