Look to your legs Heart Failure Patients
A University of Leeds research team has, for the first time, shown that leg muscle dysfunction is related to the severity of symptoms in heart failure patients, the Journal of Applied Physiology reports.
“Many chronic heart failure patients complain of leg fatigue during exercise and this can prevent them from being active,” says Harry Rossiter, of the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the university.
“Our study shows that by warming up properly, patients can improve the oxygenation and performance of their leg muscles, which is beneficial in promoting exercise tolerance,” he adds.
In a series of experiments with chronic heart failure patients, the research team measured responses of the heart, lungs and leg muscles following a moderate exercise warm-up, according to a statement from the university.
However, this adaptation was less in patients with the most severe symptoms, showing that the heart failure condition had a negative impact on the normal function of the leg muscles.
“When your muscles don’t use oxygen well, it causes an uncomfortable burning sensation during activity,” says Klaus Witte, cardiologist in the team.
“The effect of a warm up is to direct oxygen to the places that are going to need it, and make the muscles ready to use it when you start exercising,” Witte adds.
“Our main message is that exercise is safe and beneficial in patients with heart failure. By warming up the leg muscles properly, the exercise can be more comfortable and sustained for longer – affording great benefits for these patients,” Rossiter says.
Heart Facts – did you know?
Heart muscle shrinks by an average 0.3?g per year from middle age, affecting its ability to pump blood through your body. Using MRI scans of men and women aged 45 to 85, researchers at Johns Hopkins University in the U.S. found that with every year it takes longer for the heart muscles to squeeze and relax, by around 2 to 5?%, while the actual amount of blood pumped out of the heart falls by 9 millilitres a year.
This can cause blood pressure to rise. High blood pressure can cause the heart muscles to thicken as they struggle to pump against increasing resistance. ‘A heart enlarged through hypertension will have a poor blood supply and may become fibrotic and prone to failure,’ says Graham Jackson, consultant cardiologist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, London.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF: Like all muscles, the heart becomes stronger and less likely to shrink if it is exercised. ‘Dynamic or aerobic activities that benefit the heart include walking, climbing stairs, gardening, vigorous housework, dancing or using home or gym exercise equipment,’ says Mr Jackson.‘You don’t have to be an athelete just a good 40-minute walk five times a week is enough to make a difference.’