“Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person's physical, emotional, and mental states.”
Chronic Heart Failure and Exercise
Chronic heart failure (CHF) is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the heart no longer effectively pumps blood to the lungs and the rest of the body, causing breathlessness, especially during exercise. Poorly managed heart failure may lead to fluid build-up in the lungs, known as acute pulmonary oedema. This requires urgent medical attention. Fluid may also build up in other areas, causing peripheral oedema (e.g. swollen ankles) and venous congestion (e.g. prominent veins). CHF has many causes, the most common being myocardial infarction (heart attack), hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes (high blood sugar). How is CHF treated? For people with CHF, a combination of medical and lifestyle management usually reduces symptoms, improves quality of life, slows the progression of the disease and prolongs life. Controlling cardiovascular risk factors is very important to prevent and manage CHF. This includes lowering levels of blood cholesterol and other fats, lowering blood sugar levels and blood pressure, limiting alcohol intake, stop smoking and engaging in daily physical activity. Patients with CHF are prescribed multiple drugs to reduce blood pressure, slow the progression of disease and improve quality of life. Some patients with severe CHF have surgery to reduce the size of a swollen heart or to fit an extra pump to assist the ventricular pump. Patients need to control their salt and fluid intakes and follow a healthy, low-fat, low-sugar diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
How does exercise help?
During exercise, there is an increase in cardiovascular function (VO2peak) that is highly linked to improved clinical outcomes; increased muscle strength and endurance; improved ability to function and undertake activities of daily living; improved quality of life and reduced anxiety and symptoms of depression; improved cardiovascular risk by lowering levels of blood cholesterol and other fats, blood sugar and blood pressure; reduced occurrence and severity of the signs and symptoms associated with CHF; and slower rate at which the disease progresses, which reduces both the number of times patients are hospitalised and the death rate.