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Nov 07, 2013

Heart Failure Patients Have Everything to Gain from Cardiac Rehab

Although chronic heart failure can limit endurance, exercise may be just what the doctor ordered to help patients feel better and live longer.

For the 6.5 million Americans affected by heart failure, improving quality of life is top priority. This chronic condition can rob patients of their ability to exercise and make simple tasks like walking around the house seem just short of impossible. Despite limitations that heart failure often places on mobility, researchers found that exercise is just what the doctor ordered to help heart failure patients feel better and live longer.

A paper recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reviewed the latest scientific evidence on heart failure and cardiac rehabilitation exercise training. Although exercise training is known to help some patients improve quality of life and outcomes, experts wondered about possible risks that may be associated with such therapy. Could exercise increase risk for complications from the very condition they’re trying to treat?

After weighing the risks and benefits, authors conclude that cardiac rehab exercise training and self-care counseling is extremely beneficial for heart failure patients. Not only do these therapies increase patients’ abilities to exercise, minimize symptoms like fatigue, and improve quality of life, cardiac rehab helps decrease risk for cardiac events. And based on these findings, investigators support better insurance coverage for heart failure patients who could benefit from cardiac rehab and self-care counseling.

Whether insurance coverage will improve has yet to be seen, but findings are promising for heart failure patients. Tailored exercise programming is a great opportunity for patients to work closely with their healthcare providers to improve quality of life and outcomes. Although exercise isn’t right for all patients, especially those with severe heart failure, it’s nice to know that something as simple as physical activity can be added to our arsenal of therapies to help patients with heart failure live better, longer.
Read the full article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Questions for You to Consider

  • How can doctors teach better self-care management in heart failure patients?

  • It is important that doctors teach heart failure patients early symptom recognition, so that they recognize new or worsening symptoms and can work with their physician to properly address them. Doctors should also make sure that patients understand the lifestyle changes necessary for improved maintenance of heart failure and provide any help possible to improve sticking with these changes.
  • What type of exercise is recommended for heart failure patients?

  • Aerobic activity in varying degrees of intensity for at least 30 minutes on 5 or more days a week is often recommended for heart failure patients. However, resistance training has also been shown to be beneficial for heart failure patients, in addition to stretching/breathing exercise, such as tai chi and yoga.

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