WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- A new study shows that blood flow to the legs is relatively normal in people with diastolic heart failure, suggesting other potential causes of their inability to do everyday activities, according to researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.
"Reduced tolerance for physical activity is the primary symptom of diastolic heart failure, and it greatly affects quality of life," said Dalane Kitzman, M.D., professor of cardiology and senior researcher on the study. "This condition will increase as our population ages, so it's important to pinpoint the reasons for their symptoms and to develop effective treatments."
The study results are reported on-line in American Journal of Physiology Heart Circulation Physiology and will be published in an upcoming print issue.
There are an estimated 5 million heart failure patients in the United States, and about half have diastolic heart failure, in which the heart muscle is stiff and doesn't take in enough blood with each beat. The other type, systolic heart failure, is when the heart muscle is too weak to effectively pump blood out into the body. Diastolic heart failure is the more common form in the elderly and is expected to increase as the population ages.
With both types of heart failure, patients' bodies aren't getting enough oxygenated blood, which reduces their ability to perform everyday activities. But even when heart function is treated and improves many patients still have symptoms of exercise intolerance.
"This is a complex puzzle and we need to understand whether part of the picture is the blood vessels that deliver flow or perhaps how the muscles are using the oxygenated blood," said Greg Hundley, M.D., lead author and an associate professor of cardiology.
Previous research has shown that the degree of blood flow to the legs contributes significantly to exercise performance in healthy young subjects as well as
Contact: Karen Richardson
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center