Exercise as a Treatment Modality for Congestive Heart Failure

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Chronic congestive heart failure is a clinical syndrome that affects nearly 5 million people in the United States alone. Patients with this condition have symptoms of dyspnea and exertional fatigue that often limit their daily activities and decrease their quality of life. There has recently been a paradigm shift in the management of congestive heart failure. Current strategies are focusing on improving the central cardiopulmonary abnormalities, such as decreased ejection fraction and increased capillary wedge pressure, and interventions aimed at improving the numerous peripheral changes that occur with congestive heart failure. Exercise as a treatment modality has been shown to affect many of these peripheral changes, specifically abnormalities in the skeletal muscle, peripheral blood flow, and neurohormonal milieu, which improve with appropriate exercise regimes. Exercise also reduces the symptoms of exertional fatigue, improves quality of life, and increases survival. This article reviews the current experience with exercise and congestive heart failure and discusses strategies used to implement an exercise program for patients.

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