Physical activity a powerful antidote for heart failure

By Kerry Ludlam | Emory Nursing | Nov. 21, 2012

Becky Gary and heart failure patient

"As nurses, we're advancing the tools we have to keep patients moving in their daily lives. Nurses are in the unique spot to give patients a different but realistic way to approach their abilities." — Becky Gary (above right)

Becky Gary and heart failure patient
Traditionally, heart failure patients have been treated with a combination of medications and procedures, but in a 2011 study funded by the Emory Heart and Vascular Center, Gary found physical activity also can be a powerful antidote.
Becky Gary talks about exercise and heart disease.
After assessing their ability to do certain household tasks such as climbing stairs, unloading a clothes dryer, and reaching items on a shelf, Gary found that heart failure patients were dramatically underperforming in even the simplest tasks.
Becky Gary talks about exercise and heart disease.
"What we found was that being physically active improves many functions of heart failure patients," says Becky Gary. "Most of the heart failure disease severity markers have been shown over time to decrease with exercise."
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Traditionally, heart failure patients have been treated with a combination of medications and procedures, but as Becky Gary found in a 2011 study funded by the Emory Heart and Vascular Center, physical activity also can be a powerful antidote. Gary, an associate professor in the School of Nursing, and colleagues followed 24 heart failure patients at Emory Healthcare through a home-based exercise program that included aerobic and resistance training. While previous studies have evaluated heart failure patients through endurance testing on a treadmill, their trial is one of the first to use a physical function test to measure upper and lower body strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination. These often are strong indicators of a patient's ability to function in everyday settings.

After assessing their ability to do certain household tasks such as climbing stairs, unloading a clothes dryer, and reaching items on a shelf, Gary found that heart failure patients were dramatically underperforming in even the simplest tasks.

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