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Regular Exercise Helps Fight Heart Failure
Date:11/7/2007

It stimulates tissue repair better than drugs, study finds

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Exercise boosts the number of progenitor cells in people with heart failure, and those cells in turn repair and rebuild weakened muscle and blood vessels, researchers report.

According to two studies that were to be presented Wednesday at the American Heart Association annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., that response can dramatically enhance patients' ability to move and work out.

"Both studies point to the beneficial effect of exercise on patients with heart failure," said Dr. Sidney Smith, past president of the American Heart Association and director of the Center for Cardiovascular Science and Medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

"These observations provide some understanding into the mechanisms which [make exercise helpful]," Smith said.

More than 5 million people in the United States have heart failure, a condition that affects the heart's ability to pump blood throughout the body.

However, researchers are beginning to understand that heart failure woes come not only from this pumping disorder but from changes in the legs and other parts of the body.

"The muscle of the leg starts to shrink, so there is less muscle mass," explained Dr. Axel Linke, a co-author on both studies and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Leipzig in Germany. "The endothelium and the vessels supplying blood to the muscles deteriorate, so they are less flexible, elasticity is reduced," he said. The endothelium is a layer of cells that lines blood vessels.

However, exercise opens up the vessels and improves their flexibility and elasticity.

In the first study, investigators looked at whether exercise training could activate progenitor cells -- immature cells that can divide into other cells and help repair tissue.

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