CHICAGO, Nov 8 (Reuters) Daily exercise helped reverse some of the effects of heart failure, increasing the growth of new muscle cells and blood vessels that are often impaired in these patients, researchers said.
Congestive heart failure is a chronic condition in which the heart fails to pump blood efficiently to the body's organs. It can be caused by a number of things including clogged arteries, heart attack and high blood pressure.
People with heart failure often find it hard to exercise, but the effort may be worth it, according to researchers at the American Heart Association meeting in Orlando, Florida.
''If you have heart failure, exercise training can improve your health status, increase your ability to exercise and reverse patterns of muscle damage that are common in heart failure,'' Dr.
Axel Linke of the University of Leipzig in Germany yesterday said in a statement.
Linke looked at the effects of exercise on heart failure in two different studies.
In one, his team tested whether exercise training could activate progenitor cells, a type of immature cell that makes cells needed for muscle repair.
The study involved 50 men with moderate to severe heart failure who had about half the normal number of progenitor cells in their muscles.
Half of this group rode a stationary bicycle for a total of 30 minutes per day, while the other half remained relatively inactive.
At the end of six months, the inactive group saw no increase in the number of progenitor cells, but the exercise group had a 166 per cent increase. The researchers also found a six-fold increase in the formation of muscle-repairing cells.
''With exercise, the number of progenitor cells became almost normal, the cells started to divide again and they began to differentiate into myocytes (muscle cells). And that's exactly what patients with heart failure need -- replacement of muscle cells,'' Linke said.
People in the exercise group were able to exercise 20 percent longer, and they felt better too, Linke said.
He saw a similar effect in a small study of progenitor cells that make blood vessels.
Men who took part in a 12-week programme of exercise saw a 47 percent improvement in the number of progenitor cells circulating in the blood stream and a 199 per cent increase in the number of progenitor cells beginning to mature into endothelial cells, which make up the lining of blood vessels.
''These studies show that the benefits come from both the regeneration of muscle cells and the formation of blood vessels,'' Linke said.
He said it was not clear whether exercise promotes similar changes in damaged heart muscle, which is often the cause of heart failure.
More than 5 million people in the United States have heart failure, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 550,000 new cases of heart failure are diagnosed each year, and more than 287,000 people in the United States die from it each year.
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