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Researchers search for first sign of congestive heart failure

As stress can make blood vessels constrict and blood pressure rise, it may also reduce the heart's ability to relax and fill with blood, researchers says.

If they are right, this may be one of the earliest changes that eventually lead to congestive heart failure, a disabling, sometimes lethal condition affecting nearly 5 million Americans.

"What we are saying is that long before the pumping chamber of the heart becomes enlarged and dysfunctional a classic sign of congestive heart failure you have early changes in the way the heart is functioning," says Dr. Gaston Kakota Kapuku, cardiovascular researcher at the Medical College of Georgia. "If we can identify those changes, we may be able to stop the progression before the heart becomes dysfunctional."

Dr. Kapuku recently received a four-year Scientific Development Grant from the American Heart Association to look for the first time at the impact of mental stress on filling the left ventricle in hearts of young, healthy individuals.

He's recruiting 160 15-18-year-olds over the next four years. Study participants will be put on a diet for three days to regulate their sodium intake, then come to MCG's Georgia Prevention Institute to play challenging video games. In addition to measuring how stress affects heart rate and blood pressure, researchers will use painless ultrasound to study how the heart relaxes and fills with blood in stressful and normal conditions.

"By stimulating them with the video games, we increase their blood pressure," says Dr. Kapuku. "We are going to see when their blood pressure increases if their diastolic function also is immediately impacted. I am hoping we will be able to identify factors that trigger this diastolic dysfunction."

Systolic function is the heart contracting and pumping blood to the body; diastolic function is when it relaxes and fills with blood. In congestive heart failure the heart for reasons such as years of working against
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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@mcg.edu
706-721-2121
Medical College of Georgia
25-Mar-2005


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