Exercise May Postpone Right Heart Failure In PAH Patients

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Researchers in Brazil and the United Kingdom have identified another reason to get up and get moving.

In the report titled “Voluntary Exercise Delays Heart Failure Onset in Rats with Pulmonary Artery Hypertension,” published in the American Journal of Physiology Heart and Circulatory Physiology, a team led by Dr. Antonio J. Natali at the Universidade Federal de Viçosa, revealed that overall heart health is enhanced by exercise and can delay the onset of right heart failure induced by pulmonary arterial hypertension.

“Increased physical activity is recommended for the general population and to patients of many diseases because of its health benefits but can be contraindicated if it is thought a risk for serious cardiovascular events,” stated Dr. Natali in the report. “One such condition is pulmonary artery hypertension.”

Because patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension have an impaired ability to increase the amount of blood reaching the lungs during exercise, rigorous physical activity had not been recommended as part of treatment guidelines.

However, the researchers were aware that an animal model of rats with stable pulmonary arterial hypertension seemed to benefit from forced treadmill running exercises, despite the fact that rats with severe pulmonary arterial hypertension had a decreased survival time. Because more than one form of exercise is acceptable for reaching a daily goal of activity, the researchers were interested in whether an alternative to treadmill running could benefit rats and possibly humans who have pulmonary arterial hypertension.

To test the notion, the researchers gave mouse models free access to a running wheel that logged the distance run on a daily basis. A sedentary group with no access to a running wheel was used for comparison. When the animals showed signs of right heart failure, the researchers investigated characteristics of their hearts.

All animals eventually developed right heart failure, no matter the exercise status. However, the animals that were able to exercise had a significantly longer median time of survival, indicating that the time to right heart failure was prolonged by exercise. Exercising for a longer distance or time did not seem to correlate to survival time.

In terms of heart characteristics, the researchers found that the animals had an increase in heart weight relative to body weight. However, right heart hypertrophy was less severe in the exercise group than in the sedentary group.

“Our observations suggest that appropriate exercise regimes may be useful in the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension,” wrote the authors. Although these experiments were conducted in animals, the same may be true for humans, suggesting that voluntary exercise benefits heart health.

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Maureen Newman is a science columnist for Pulmonary Hypertension News. She is currently a PhD student studying biomedical engineering at University of Rochester, working towards a career of research in biomaterials for drug delivery and regenerative medicine. She is an integral part of Dr. Danielle Benoit's laboratory, where she is investigating bone-homing therapeutics for osteoporosis treatment.
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