Features April 2008 Issue

Exercise Strengthens Muscles Weakened by Heart Failure

Increase your stamina and reduce fatigue with a customized program of aerobic exercise and strength training.

Many patients with heart failure (HF) think that exercise is off-limits, believing that physical activity could increase their symptoms of fatigue and shortness of breath. However, this "couch potato" approach is now known to be detrimental to health. Research presented at the American Heart Association conference in Orlando last fall showed that HF patients who participated in a supervised exercise program had increased muscle cell production and capillary density, resulting in stronger muscles, better blood flow, and a 20 percent increase in exercise capacity. "Appropriate exercise can lead to functional improvements (increased stamina), diminish symptoms (fatigue, shortness of breath), improve quality of life, decrease hospital stays, and may even decrease mortality in HF patients," says Gordon Blackburn, PhD, the program director of the Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation Program at Cleveland Clinic.

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