Treating heart failure with exercise: How much is enough?

September 30, 2013, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

More than 14 million Europeans suffer from heart failure, roughly half of which is caused by diastolic heart failure, known by doctors as HFPEF. OptimEx, a new 3.5-year study funded by the European Union and coordinated by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), will look at whether exercise could be used both to prevent and treat HFPEF.

HFPEF, or Heart Failure with Preserved Left Ventricular Ejection Fraction, is the only cardiovascular disease that is increasing in prevalence and incidence in the Western world, probably because of the ageing population. It is characterized by stiffness of the heart muscle, which causes edema, breathlessness and an impaired ability to .

Women and the elderly are most commonly afflicted by diastolic , but hypertension, diabetes, obesity and physical inactivity also represent important risk factors. However, there is no effective treatment for HFPEF, which makes it one of the most pressing unmet clinical needs in Europe.

OptimEx, a coalition of researchers from five European universities, will examine whether exercise could help treat or even prevent the development of this disease. The EU's Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7) has funded the project with a 3 million euro grant for 3.5 years, beginning in October 2013.

"Exercise has previously been found to improve cardiac function in , but still, our knowledge is very limited," says Professor and OptimEx coordinator, Ulrik Wisløff, who is also head of NTNU's K.G. Jebsen – Center of Exercise in Medicine. "The OptimEx study will give us answers on how to prevent and limit the extent of heart failure through exercise."

Wisløff said the group will use animal models to better understand the pathophysiological mechanisms involved in heart failure, and how exercise may be protective. That information will allow researchers to identify new therapeutic targets to develop medical treatments.

The study will also include a clinical trial of 200 patients, who will be randomly assigned to groups that will follow exercise protocols of different intensity and lengths. The groups will be followed for one year. Researchers will examine a number of questions:

  1. How much exercise (duration, intensity, frequency,) is most effective and beneficial?
  2. What are the leading pathophysiological mechanisms that are modified by different amounts of exercise?
  3. How can doctors make sure that their patients continue to exercise as well as make longstanding lifestyle changes?
  4. How can a better understanding of the mechanisms of the disease be translated into future targeted therapies, including drugs?

Another important aspect of the project involves the development and testing of telemedicine devices designed to make sure that patients are doing what they are supposed to do. For example, participants will wear accelerometers that will monitor daily activity. A feedback loop from the device to a central server makes it possible for the project staff to motivate participants to make adjustments to get back on track, if their activity level gets too low.

OptimEx is composed of the Antwerp University Hospital, the University of Graz, Leipzig University Hospital, the Technical University of Munich, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and Vitaphone, a German company that will establish a telemedicine platform as part of the project.

Explore further: RELAX-AHF shows first positive findings in HFpEF patients

Related Stories

RELAX-AHF shows first positive findings in HFpEF patients

May 26, 2013
Serelaxin may be more effective for relieving dyspnea in heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) than reduced (HFrEF) during the first 24 hours, according to results from RELAX-AHF presented in today's late ...

The higher the better? Intensity of training in CHD patients important to improve fitness

September 20, 2013
High-intensity exercise is shown to be protective against coronary heart disease (CHD) and is well known as a popular and time-saving approach to getting fit. But what about people who already have heart disease? Previously, ...

Sildenafil for heart failure does not result in significant improvement in exercise capacity

March 11, 2013
Among patients with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (a measure of heart function), administration of sildenafil (commercially known as Viagra) for 24 weeks, compared with placebo, did not result in significant ...

Heart disease patients with positive attitudes likely to exercise, live longer

September 10, 2013
Heart disease patients with positive attitudes are more likely to exercise and live longer, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

Long-term use of medication does not improve symptoms for heart failure patients

February 26, 2013
Among patients with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, long-term treatment with the medication spironolactone improved left ventricular diastolic function but did not affect maximal exercise capacity, patient ...

Living better with heart failure by changing what you eat

September 24, 2013
Diet can dramatically lower hypertension and improve heart function in patients with a common type of heart failure, according to research presented at today's Heart Failure Society of America meeting in Orlando, Fla.

Recommended for you

A nanoparticle inhalant for treating heart disease

January 18, 2018
A team of researchers from Italy and Germany has developed a nanoparticle inhalant for treating people suffering from heart disease. In their paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the group describes ...

Starting periods before age of 12 linked to heightened risk of heart disease and stroke

January 15, 2018
Starting periods early—before the age of 12—is linked to a heightened risk of heart disease and stroke in later life, suggests an analysis of data from the UK Biobank study, published online in the journal Heart.

'Decorated' stem cells could offer targeted heart repair

January 10, 2018
Although cardiac stem cell therapy is a promising treatment for heart attack patients, directing the cells to the site of an injury - and getting them to stay there - remains challenging. In a new pilot study using an animal ...

Two simple tests could help to pinpoint cause of stroke

January 10, 2018
Detecting the cause of the deadliest form of stroke could be improved by a simple blood test added alongside a routine brain scan, research suggests.

Exercise is good for the heart, high blood pressure is bad—researchers find out why

January 10, 2018
When the heart is put under stress during exercise, it is considered healthy. Yet stress due to high blood pressure is bad for the heart. Why? And is this always the case? Researchers of the German Centre for Cardiovascular ...

Heart-muscle patches made with human cells improve heart attack recovery

January 10, 2018
Large, human cardiac-muscle patches created in the lab have been tested, for the first time, on large animals in a heart attack model. This clinically relevant approach showed that the patches significantly improved recovery ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.