Exercise can slow muscle wasting, boost strength and reduce inflammation caused by aging and heart failure. Heart failure also known as congestive heart failure or cardiomyopathy-heart failure is a condition in which the heart can no longer pump enough blood to the rest of the body. It is a long-term condition, but it can sometimes develop suddenly. The condition may affect only the right side or only the left side of the heart. These are called right-sided heart failure or left-sided heart failure. More often, both sides of the heart are involved. Heart failure is present when firstly when your heart muscle cannot pump the blood out of the heart very well. This is called systolic heart failure. Secondly, it is present when your heart muscles are stiff and do not fill up with blood easily. This is called diastolic heart failure. Both of these problems mean the heart is no longer able to pump enough oxygen-rich blood out to the rest of your body, especially when you exercise or are active.
As the heart’s pumping action is lost, blood may back up in other areas of the body. Fluid builds up in the lungs, liver, gastrointestinal tract, and the arms and legs. This is called congestive heart failure. The most common cause of heart failure is coronary artery disease (CAD), a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. Heart failure can also occur when an infection weakens the heart muscle. This condition is called cardiomyopathy. About 5.7 million adult Americans have heart failure. However, this problem which is debilitating, often associated with multiple hospitalizations, and is a financial burden on our health care system, may improve with exercise.
Recommendations to treat heart failure should clearly include an exercise component, as the benefits are those that can help improve the clinical status in these otherwise sick patients. Among heart failure patients who exercise, those aged 55 and younger increase their peak oxygen uptake by 25 percent and those aged 65 and older increase it by 27 percent. These beneficial effects of exercise are not age-dependent. Further, exercise program slowed muscle wasting in the heart failure patients and improved their leg muscle strength and overall exercise capacity, regardless of age. Exercise switches off the muscle-wasting pathways and switches on pathways involved in muscle growth, counteracting muscle loss and exercise intolerance in heart failure patients. All this beckons that exercise is therapeutic even in elderly heart failure patients and also an avenue for drug development to slow muscle breakdown in heart failure patients.