Why Heart Failure Patients Shouldn't Give Up

Exercise, diet interventions may benefit obese, older adults with heart failure

(RxWiki News) Even if you happened to wait until after a heart failure diagnosis to think about a healthy diet and exercise plan, it may not be too late.

A new study found that obese, older adults with one common type of heart failure may benefit from both a calorie-restricted diet and aerobic exercise — with the greatest benefits seen when both lifestyle interventions were used together.

Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFPEF), also known as diastolic heart failure, occurs when the heart muscle contracts normally but the ventricles do not relax as they should.

HFPEF is the most rapidly increasing form of heart failure. It is linked to high rates of illness and death. More than 80 percent of patients with this condition are overweight or obese.

For this study, a team of researchers led by Dalane W. Kitzman, MD, a professor of cardiology at Wake Forest University, randomly assigned 100 obese patients with chronic, stable HFPEF to diet, exercise, both or no lifestyle changes for 20 weeks. Of these patients, 92 completed the study.

Dr. Kitzman and team then used the Minnesota Living with Heart Failure Questionnaire to measure quality of life and peak oxygen consumption to measure exercise capacity in these patients.

Exercise capacity was found to increase significantly with both exercise and diet, with the combination of the two producing the greatest results.

Overall body weight decreased by 7 percent in the diet group, 3 percent in the exercise group, 10 percent in the exercise plus diet group and 1 percent in the control group.

No significant change in quality of life scores was found with either exercise or diet.

In an editorial about this study, Nanette K. Wenger, MD, a professor of cardiology at Emory University School, wrote, "Exercise intolerance is the predominant symptom and a major contributor to reduced quality of life in patients with HFPEF ... This [study] provides applicable evidence that dietary intervention (caloric restriction) alone or complemented by aerobic exercise training improves [oxygen intake], increasing exercise capacity."

This study was published Jan. 5 in the journal JAMA.

The National Institutes of Health funded this research. Dr. Kitzman disclosed ties to companies that make products used in the treatment of heart failure.

Review Date: 
January 4, 2016