According to new research, aerobic exercise turns an enlarged heart into a trimmer, more efficient organ for pumping blood throughout the body . The study showed that when patients with heart failure did aerobic exercise several times a week, the oversized heart became significantly smaller and better able to pump blood.
Researchers were surprised to find that those who added weight lifting to the exercise routine to enhance muscle strength did not enjoy a similar improvement in the heart's size or function. "If I were to choose a type of exercise training for a patient with heart failure, I'd choose aerobic exercise. It's aerobic training that provides the greatest benefit," said Mark J. Haykowsky, Ph.D., an associate professor of rehabilitation medicine at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
An estimated 5.2 million people in the United States have heart failure, a condition that accounts for more than a million hospitalisations each year. The total direct and indirect costs linked to heart failure exceed 33 billion dollars annually. In most cases, heart failure is the result of years of high blood pressure or damage from a heart attack. Over time, the heart becomes enlarged, misshapen, and too weak to effectively pump blood, a process known as remodelling. As a result, patients typically become short of breath even with very little activity.
For many years, doctors recommended that people with heart failure avoid exercise. In some cases, patients were even put on bed rest in an attempt to relieve the heart of any extra stress. Over the last decade, however, it has become increasingly clear that exercise is good for patients with heart failure, not only reducing symptoms and allowing patients to live more active lives, but also reversing some of the harmful hormonal changes that take place as the body attempts to compensate for a weakened heart.
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