Effects of Diet and Exercise on Heart Failure Patients

Researchers evaluated the impact of sodium, potassium and magnesium ingestion on hospitalisation and death in 129 patients with heart failure over two years. Sodium intake was lower in patients who died (837 mg/day versus 1 749 mg/day, p = 0.03). Patients who consumed less than 200 mg/day of magnesium had a nearly three times higher risk of hospitalisation or death.

Dr Arturo Orea, Cardiology Service Coordinator, National Institute of Respiratory Disease, Mexico City, said: “Patients with heart failure should ensure that they get enough magnesium in their diet by eating dark leafy greens, nuts, fish, whole grains and bananas. Our finding of a lower sodium intake in patients who died might be explained by the fact that when sodium intake reduction is excessive, the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system is more active, which can increase blood pressure.”

Dr Orea’s group also investigated the effect of diet and exercise in patients with heart failure. A study presented for the first time at the Mexican Congress of Cardiology found that after just four months, 84 patients who ate a low carbohydrate diet (40-50% carbohydrates, 30-40% protein and 20% fat) and did aerobic and resistance exercise had reduced blood pressure and total body water compared to a control group of 38 patients.

“These results indicate that a low carbohydrate diet and exercise are beneficial for patients with heart failure,” said Dr Orea. “This could be because the respiratory coefficient of carbohydrates is higher than fat and proteins which means they require more oxygen and respiratory effort to metabolise. In addition, a higher intake of unsaturated fat could improve the integrity and function of cells. Exercise improves endothelial function (increasing vessel diameter and blood flow), so there is better delivery of nutrients and oxygen to the cells plus removal of waste.”

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