Maintaining a regular exercise schedule is commonly known to be the cornerstone of a lifestyle suited to prevent cardiovascular disease, but new studies are also showing that regular exercise can be beneficial for heart failure patients.
As part of an international collaboration called Exercise Training Meta-Analysis of Trials in Heart Failure (ExTraMATCH II), researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 4,043 heart failure patients to quantify the precise benefits an exercise regimen provided for the participants. It wasn’t the first meta-analysis study for principal investigator Rod Taylor, PhD, from the University of Exeter Medical School. Taylor had conducted a previous study similar to the current study, but the previous study’s findings were inconclusive for determining the relationship between exercise and all-cause mortality for heart failure patients.
The present study provides a more unique method for producing dependable results due to analyzing the data at the patient level, allowing the researchers to produce “stronger statistical power.” Additionally, analyzing individual data points aided the researchers in visualizing variance between certain subgroups.
The data from the 4,043 heart failure patients came from 20 individual trials with around 50 heart failure patients per trial. Researchers from the randomized trials followed up for at least six months, providing the ExTraMATCH II team with ample data to understand long-term impact of exercise for these patients. They also took note of several factors thought to be associated with the progression of heart failure:
- Heart failure severity
- Baseline left ventricular ejection fraction
- Peak oxygen uptake
The study’s findings showed an 18 percent decrease in risk for all-cause mortality as well as an 11 percent risk reduction for hospitalization for heart failure patients who kept a regular exercise routine. All findings were comparisons between exercising heart failure patients and non-exercising patients.
"Patients with heart failure should not be scared of exercise damaging them or killing them," Taylor said.
Not only should they not be afraid, heart failure patients should be encouraged to exercise, even it is just a 20-minute walk several times a week, Taylor said.
However, the patient factors measured in the study did not have an impact on how beneficial exercise was for a particular case of heart failure.
"There was no evidence that some heart failure patients gain more from exercise than others," Taylor said. "The benefits of exercise are consistent regardless of the severity of heart failure, gender, age, and the other factors we looked at."
Regular exercise improves health outcomes for heart failure patients for a variety of reasons:
- Improves physical fitness
- Improves oxygen supply to the heart
- Reduces likelihood of potentially-fatal abnormal rhythms
- Improves circulation in the peripheral vasculature to reduce how hard the heart has to work
Source: European Society of Cardiology