Exercise Helps Reduce Coronary Artery Stiffening in Heart Failure

Rockville, Md. (July 30, 2019)—New research suggests exercise may prevent or lessen artery stiffening associated with heart failure by limiting the buildup of unsafe chemicals around the heart. The first-of-its-kind study is published ahead of print in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

Stiffening in large arteries throughout the body is common in people with heart failure, but less is known regarding this process in the heart’s blood vessels. Arterial stiffness stems from a number of factors, including reduced elastin (an elastic-like protein in connective tissues) and the buildup of a harmful compound called advanced glycation end products (AGE) that forms when protein or fat combines with sugar in the bloodstream. Previous research suggests that fat tissue surrounding the heart’s arteries (perivascular adipose tissue, or PVAT) plays a role in arterial stiffness—even in people without heart failure—because it secretes AGE. Reducing this stiffness can help preserve blood flow to the heart in people with heart failure.

Researchers studied three groups of Yucatan miniature swine with heart failure:

  • One group was sedentary.
  • One group participated in continuous exercise training.
  • One group participated in interval exercise training.

Exercise training consisted of treadmill running three days a week for 17 weeks. The continuous group exercised for 45 minutes without stopping plus five-minute warm-up and cool-down sessions. The interval group alternated between five- and three-minute training periods of different exercise intensity in addition to the warm-up and cool-down.

Both exercise groups maintained artery elasticity and had lower levels of stiffness than the sedentary group. In addition, the PVAT showed less inflammation and released less AGE in the exercise groups.

These results “show the efficacy of chronic exercise training as a therapeutic option for treating coronary vascular dysfunction in [heart failure], using an intensity tolerable to heart failure patients,” the researchers wrote. Learning more about “the potential of AGE inhibition as a therapeutic strategy to combat arterial stiffness and dysfunction in heart failure is warranted,” the research team said.

Read the full article, “Chronic exercise training prevents coronary artery stiffening in aortic-banded miniswine: Role of perivascular adipose-derived advanced glycation end products,” published ahead of print in the  Journal of Applied Physiology.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: To schedule an interview with a member of the research team, please contact the APS Communications Office or call 301.634.7314. Find more research highlights in our News Room.

Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. Established in 1887, the American Physiological Society (APS) was the first U.S. society in the biomedical sciences field. The Society represents more than 10,000 members and publishes 15 journals with a worldwide readership.

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