UTSW and THR Research May Have Found an Answer for Untreatable Heart Failure

Collaborative research from UT Southwestern and Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas have developed an exercise program that stops the progression of what was formerly an untreatable type of heart failure, with some patients experiencing a reduction in risk as well.

The program was developed by the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine, a partnership between UTSW and Presbyterian, and was presented at the 2019 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Philadelphia.

“I think this reflects the quality of the research being done by scientists here at the IEEM and shows what Texas Health and UT Southwestern can achieve when we combine the strengths of our two organizations,” said Dr. Benjamin Levine, director of the IEEM and a professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and a cardiologist on the Texas Health Dallas medical staff via release.

IEEM’s research focused on a condition called heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, where fluid stacks up into the lungs and extremities, and half of all heart failure patients suffer from it. The condition was thought to be untreatable, and caused fatigue and shortness of breath, but new approaches to exercise and rehab could help treat the condition.

Study participants spent a year doing high-intensity exercise, strengthening and loosening their heart muscle while reversing one of the risk factors for development of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction.

“In this paper, we show for the first time, that these patients have already started to develop the precursor of HFpEF, namely a small, stiff heart,” Levine said via release. “We also show for the first time that a year of exercise training can reverse this stiffening in the high-risk HFpEF population, and thus may be an especially fruitful strategy to preventing this devastating disease.”

Their findings will be published in an upcoming edition of the journal Circulation.


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