A recent study funded by the U.S. government has reversed previous advice given to patients recovering from heart failure. Heart failure patients used to be advised not to exercise, as there was a risk that the weakened heart would fail again as it would not be able to cope with the increased stress levels during exercise. However, latest research now says that it is OK for patients to exercise.
Exercising three times a week for half an hour does not raise the risk of heart attack, erratic heart rhythms, chest pain of fractures. In fact, the study showed that those that exercise actually were less likely to have a heart attack or other problems and fatality rates reduced amongst those exercising.
The results of the research were announced at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting in New Orleans. These finding will change attitudes of both health professionals and health/life insurers regarding physical activity for heart failure patients. Even though no previous research had determined that exercise was unsafe, it was always assumed that it would somehow lead to more problems for the patient.
“The key finding is whether or not exercise is safe. It’s absolutely safe. Doctors should set up a program that is structured. Don’t tell me that exercise is good; tell me what I should be doing. That varies for each patient.” Gordon Tomaselli, chief of cardiology at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.
Gordon Tomaselli makes a valid point here. It is wise for a doctor to always be cautious, as telling a patient to be careful is a more sensible career move than telling them to go for a run. People need to know exactly what type of exercise should be performed, and how much. Also, people that are severely overweight would probably be better off losing some weight first, rather than diving into a new exercise regime.
The study examined 2,331 recovering heart patients. 50% of the patients followed a guided exercise program for 36 weeks, which aimed at completing 40 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week. Patients were provided with a treadmill or exercise bike to use at home. The remaining patients were given advice that doing 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week was good for them, but they were not actively encouraged to do the exercise.
The study lasted for one year and 75% of patients had failed to stick to a routine to complete five workouts per week, but 25% of the group were still following the plan.
“This was a compelling study. It just didn’t keep you out of the hospital, but it saved lives. You can say to somebody: You can do this without taking another pill that may cost money and give you side effects. Exercise is safe and has been shown to reduce mortality.” Muriel Jessup, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Health.
Each year a staggering 5 million Americans suffer from some form of heart failure, which results in the weakening of the organ. The damage leads to fatigue, physical limitations and often proves fatal. With this in mind, it seems sensible to encourage heart patients to become more active, rather than less so. Inactivity seems likely to lead to worsened health, and therefore greater risks of repeat heart attacks. Heart disease is still the largest killer in the Western World, and poor diet and lack of exercise are usually responsible.