Exercise can cut heart patients' risk of dying by 20pc, study finds

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 May, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 May, 2004, 12:00am

Heart patients who undertake exercise-based rehabilitation reduce their chance of dying by 20 per cent, according to a new study.

The review of 48 trials involving 8,940 patients, including those in Hong Kong, Australia, Europe and North America, compared the effects of exercise alone or in combination with psychological or educational interventions.

The director of The Nethersole School of Nursing at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, David Thompson, said: 'We pooled all the data and analysed it. The study concludes that, compared with usual care, exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation reduced total mortality by 20 per cent and cardiac mortality by 26 per cent.'

He also said there were substantial reductions in cholesterol, blood pressure and cigarette smoking.

The study by a team of researchers from Hong Kong, Britain, the US and Canada was published in the May 15 issue of the American Journal of Medicine.

Heart disease is the biggest killer in Hong Kong after cancer.

Cardiac rehabilitation usually involves six to eight weeks of exercise, education and psychological and social support to help patients recover.

'Psychologically [it is] to instil confidence and boost morale, improve self-esteem. Physically it is more about getting them to return to normal activities whether at home, work or in their leisure - and then socially getting them to engage more with their families, friends and colleagues,' Professor Thompson said.

One of the most interesting findings in the study was that cardiac exercise alone or as part of a comprehensive programme 'conferred the same benefits' on patients, he added.

Professor Thompson hopes the Hospital Authority will set out guidelines to mandate cardiac rehabilitation for all patients who suffered such as angina or heart attack, and those who have a heart bypass or angioplasty.

He also says it would be cost-effective to move rehabilitation into the community.

'The problem in Asia, particularly the mainland and Hong Kong, seems to be that [cardiac rehabilitation programmes] tend to be more hospital based,' he said.

Rehabilitation services were becoming more community-based in Britain and were usually run by nursing staff, he said.

Taking a cue from the study, Professor Thompson said the Prince of Wales Hospital and Chinese University were writing a self-help manual for patients.