March 19 (UPI) — Research suggests a change in current treatment guidelines for people with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM, should include moderate exercise.
HCM occurs when the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick, making it harder for the heart to pump blood. It is the most common genetic cardiovascular disease, and one of the leading causes of sudden cardiac death among young people.
People with HCM are often discouraged from participating in competitive sports due to the risk of sudden cardiac death from the disease.
Current guidelines recommend patients with HCM limit intense exercise due to the risk of it triggering ventricular arrhythmias.
“We are challenging the idea that exercise is dangerous for these patients,” Dr. Sharlene Day, a cardiologist and associate professor at Michigan Medicine, said in a press release. “And we show that it can actually be beneficial.”
Studies have shown people with HCM have reduced activity levels after diagnosis compared to the general population.
Researchers from the University of Michigan worked with a team from Stanford University and the VA Palo Alto Health Care System on the study, which was presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session.
In a randomized clinical trial of 136 patients with HCM between the ages of 18 and 80, researchers found a statistically significant increase in peak oxygen consumption over 16 weeks in participants who performed moderate exercise compared to participants who performed normal activities.
The exercises consisted of moderate walking, using an elliptical, jogging or biking, and working out at least three times a week for 20 minutes. There was no interval or weight training in the study.
“We have those images entrenched in our brains of young, healthy athletes collapsing suddenly in the middle of a competition, and these devastating events trigger a visceral response,” said Dr. Sara Saberi, an assistant professor and cardiologist at Michigan Medicine. “But by limiting exercise, we’re creating another set of health problems that stem from obesity, like coronary heart disease, diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, depression and anxiety. The findings show patients that follow an exercise prescription can actually train and improve their functional capacity.”
The long-term safety of exercise in the HCM population is yet to be established, but researchers said this study is the first step.
The study was published in JAMA.