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Muscle Training May Benefit Chronic Heart Failure Patients

TUESDAY, Sept. 13 (HealthDay News) -- People with chronic heart failure can improve their ability to exercise by focusing their training on their small muscles, researchers say.

This type of isolated workout can also boost oxygen flow and improve patients' quality of life, according to the report published online Sept. 13 and in the Sept. 20 print issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

In conducting the study, researchers from Italy and the United States gave 12 men an eight-week program of isolated, small muscle (knee-extensions) and whole-body (cycling) exercises. Six of the men had chronic heart failure; the rest did not.

The investigators examined the men's muscle structure, oxygen transport and metabolism both before and after they completed the program, and compared the findings of those with chronic heart failure to those without the heart condition.

Following the initial program, the men with heart failure completed another eight-week small muscle exercise regimen so the researchers could compare how their results had changed.

The study showed that cardiac output during the small muscle exercise was similar among all the participants both before and after the eight weeks of training. There was a change, however, in oxygen transport.

Before the training, the maximum amount of oxygen delivered to the leg muscles was significantly lower in the men with chronic heart failure. Once they completed the eight-week program, the amount of oxygen delivered to their leg muscles surged by roughly 54 percent, the same level as the men without heart failure, the study authors reported.

The leg oxygen consumption of the men with heart failure was also significantly higher than the other men, rising by about 53 percent after the training. The researchers attributed this to better blood flow redistribution.

Lead study author Dr. Fabio Esposito, of the University of Milan, pointed out in a news release from the American College of Cardiology that the study results "indicate that the skeletal muscle of patients with chronic heart failure still has the potential to adapt in the expected fashion, if given the appropriate stimuli."

The findings could help medical professionals develop better treatment and rehab strategies for patients with chronic heart failure, the team concluded.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about heart failure.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: American College of Cardiology, news release, Sept. 12, 2011

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