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A Month of Exercise Helps Ease Heart Failure
Date:4/8/2008

Moderate regimen saw heart output, breathing improve, researchers say

TUESDAY, April 8 (HealthDay News) -- Just four weeks of moderate exercise is enough to boost the cardiac performance and breathing capacity of patients with heart failure, a new study finds.

This slightly more strenuous exercise program -- in standard use in Europe for people with heart failure -- works at least as well as the less intense American regimen, the researchers noted. They presented the findings Tuesday at the Experimental Biology conference in San Diego.

In heart failure, the heart progressively loses the ability to pump blood. In the United States, doctors typically recommend three-times-a-week exercise sessions for eight to 12 weeks to help ease the condition, noted study author Stephen F. Crouse, a professor of kinesiology and internal medicine at Texas A&M University, in College Station.

His team looked at data from an Austrian rehabilitation center where 366 heart failure patients (average age 63) exercised 14 to 22 minutes on stationery bicycles six times a week. Participants also did a brisk 45-minute walk each day.

Four weeks of that regimen were enough to produce a significant increase in the participants' breathing capacity, Crouse said.

"This is something that we can recommend continuing for the rest of their lives," he added.

The benefits of exercise for people with heart failure are well-established, Crouse acknowledged. "There are some data from U.S. studies showing that the European regimen has at least equal benefits," he said.

The study used such standard measures of heart function as VO2max, which measures oxygen consumed; resting heart rate; and blood pressure. But of greater interest was the measurement of blood levels of the protein NT-proBNP, which is secreted when heart muscle cells are stressed, Crouse said.

"We have this biomarker in the blood that can be
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