Exercise Training Confers Anticipatory Protection From Sudden Death During Acute Myocardial Ischemia

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Seven conscious dogs documented to be at high risk by the occurrence of ventricular fibrillation (VF) during acute myocardial ischemia were randomly assigned to 6 weeks of either daily exercise training or cage rest followed by exercise training. After 6 weeks of daily treadmill training, heart rate variability, a marker of vagal tone, increased by 74% (P < .001); baroreflex sensitivity, a marker of the capability to reflexly augnent vagal activity, increased by 69% (P < .01); the repetitive extrasystole threshold, a marker of ventricular electrical stability, increased by 44% (P < .05). After exercise training, the incidence of ventricular fibrillation during acute myocardial ischemia decreased by 100%, as all animals survived. Neither passage of time nor heart rate level during ischemia contributed to the outcome. The most likely mechanism to explain the striking change in risk status is the shift in autonomic balance characterized by increased cardiac vagal activity, which was previously shown to have an antifibrillatory effect. These results suggest that exercise training in healthy individuals may decrease their likelihood of developing lethal arrhythmias during acute myocardial ischemia.

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