Exercise May Postpone Right Heart Failure in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension Patients

06 Jan Exercise May Postpone Right Heart Failure in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension Patients

Researchers in Brazil and the United Kingdom have identified another reason to get up and get moving. Reporting their findings in “Voluntary Exercise Delays Heart Failure Onset in Rats with Pulmonary Artery Hypertension,” which was published in American Journal of Physiology Heart and Circulatory Physiology, a team led by Dr. Antonio J. Natali at the Universidade Federal de Viçosa identified 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 team’s article. “One such condition is pulmonary artery hypertension.” Since patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension have an impaired ability to increase the amount of blood reaching the lungs during exercise, rigorous physical activity has 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. Since 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 — that have pulmonary arterial hypertension.

The exercise regimen of choice was simply free access to a running wheel that logged the distance run by rats on a daily basis. A sedentary group with no access to a running wheel was also used for comparing purposes. When the rats showed signs of right heart failure, the researchers investigated characteristics of the rats’ hearts.

All rats eventually developed right heart failure, no matter the exercise status. However, rats 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 rats 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,” stated the authors. Although these experiments were conducted in rats, the same may be true for humans, suggesting that voluntary exercise benefits heart health.