Earlier this fall CERG researchers went to San Francisco, California-USA, to attend the “High Blood Pressure Research” (HBPR) 2014 scientific sessions, sponsored by the American Heart Association’s Council on Hypertension and Council on Kidney in Cardiovascular Disease.
For those who never heard about American Heart Association, it is a non-profit organization in the United States that fosters appropriate cardiac care in an effort to reduce disability and deaths caused by cardiovascular disease and stroke. More precisely, the HBPR 2014 scientific sessions were a four-day scientific program with more than 500 presentations focusing on recent advances in basic and clinical high blood pressure research, and the participation of experts in the fields of hypertension and its relationship to heart and kidney diseases, stroke, obesity, and genetics.
Why CERG have been attending this type of meeting?
Simply because our group is also interested in investigating the beneficial effects physical exercise has on the heart, in the blood vessels, in the muscles, and in the kidneys of patients with diastolic dysfunction.
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Diastolic dysfunction is characterized by impaired functionality of the heart during diastole. This is the medical term of the phase of the cardiac cycle when the heart relaxes and gets filled with blood. Due to increased stiffness of the heart muscle, the filling phase is reduced. This is causing symptoms like breathlessness, coughing and rapid breathing. The condition occurs most frequently among women and with increasing age, but hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and inactivity are well-known risk factors as well. While the prevalence of other cardiovascular diseases has reversed during the last decades due to better treatment, diastolic heart failure is actually the only disease where the prevalence is increasing. Despite several attempts, no medical treatment has been found to be effective in diastolic heart failure.
Last year, our group launched the OptimEx study. OptimEx (or Optimizing Exercise Training in Prevention and Treatment of Diastolic Heart Failure) is a multicenter study, established by a consortium of European universities (Norwegian University of Science and Technology-NTNU/Norway, University of Leipzig-Germany, University of Technology Munich-Germany, University of Antwerp-Belgium, and Medical University Graz-Austria) and industry (Vitaphone-Germany), and is founded by the European Union. The main focus of the study is to use the exercise as an alternative treatment for diastolic heart failure.
In the HBPR 2014 scientific sessions, two researchers, Natale Rolim and Gustavo Justo da Silva, represented the CERG and discussed the data collected from the animal study in the last year. One of the topics discussed by Natale Rolim was the importance to establish diagnostic criteria of diastolic heart failure in animal models in order to enable molecular studies and better understand the development of this disease and possibilities for treatment. Furthermore, Gustavo Justo da Silva highlighted the benefits of exercise training not only for the failing heart but also for the kidneys, which are normally overloaded when blood pressure levels are out of control.
What else did we see in the HBPR 2014?
Many other groups around the world were also attending HBPR2014 and presenting interesting studies of the benefits of exercise training, specially the combination of aerobic and resistance exercise training, in different conditions such as ageing, menopause, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and hypertension. The benefits of aerobic exercise training were also shown in hypertensive postmenopausal women. A reduction in blood pressure due to the effects of the exercise training was accompanied by increased activation of a vascular dilation and decreased cortisol levels in these patients. A group from the Wake Forest University-USA studied the effects of an exercise intervention combined with beetroot juice (known by its high nitrate concentrations) in controlled hypertensive elderly subjects. However, the authors have demonstrated no additional benefits of the beetroot juice on physical performance or cardiovascular function.
The consortium is also launching the OptimEx Clinical study. We are planning to evaluate a total number of 180 patients with diastolic heart failure, which will exercise for 12 months, with 3 months supervised and the 9 remaining home-based. So, in the last months the consortium has been performing all kind of quality control of test procedures and equipment to be used in the clinical part of OptimEx. (see previous posts in both OptimEx webpage News and also in the CERG blog)
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More recently, the first group of patients have been recently admitted in the Clinical study in two of the consortium partners (Munich and Antwerp) and more will be soon enrolled in the study. Everybody is excited how the patients will get along with their training.
Are you still curious about diastolic heart failure? Why exercise could be a medicine more effective than any drug? What actually is OptimEx trying to find out, and what will participation require? Whether is it safe for heart failure patients to exercise? In order to have appropriate answers to these and other questions check the OptimEx Study webpage.