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Vol. LXI, No. 9
May 1, 2009

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  Regular exercise is safe for heart failure patients and may slightly lower their risk of death or hospitalization.  
  Regular exercise is safe for heart failure patients and may slightly lower their risk of death or hospitalization.  

Exercise Is Safe, Improves Quality of Life in Patients with Chronic Heart Failure

Regular exercise is safe for heart failure patients and may slightly lower their risk of death or hospitalization, according to results from the largest and most comprehensive clinical trial to examine the effects of exercise in chronic heart failure patients. Supported by NHLBI, the study also found that heart failure patients who add regular, moderate physical activity to standard medical therapy report a higher quality of life compared to similar patients who receive medical therapy only.

Researchers with HF-ACTION (Heart Failure–A Controlled Trial Investigating Outcomes of exercise TraiNing) published two papers in the Apr. 8 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study was conducted at 82 centers in the United States, Canada and France.

“Many patients and health care providers have continued to be concerned about the safety of aerobic exercise for heart failure,” said NHLBI director Dr. Elizabeth Nabel. “With the results of this robust clinical trial, we can now reassure heart failure patients that, with appropriate medical supervision, regular aerobic exercise is not only safe but it can also improve their lives in really meaningful ways.”

Researchers Discover New Genetic Variants Associated with Increased Risk of Stroke

Scientists have identified a previously unknown connection between two genetic variants and an increased risk of stroke, providing strong evidence for the existence of specific genes that help explain the genetic component of stroke. The research was funded by NHLBI and several other institutes and centers. The analysis of over 19,000 participants is published in the Apr. 23 New England Journal of Medicine.

The genetic variants were discovered by analyzing the genomes of individuals from the CHARGE (Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology) consortium. This includes participants from the Framingham Heart Study, Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, Cardiovascular Health Study and Rotterdam Study. The researchers discovered that two previously unsuspected common genetic variants, or single-nucleotide polymorphisms, were consistently associated with total stroke (all types) and ischemic stroke in white people.

Use of Antipsychotics in Alzheimer’s Patients May Lead to Detrimental Metabolic Changes

Atypical antipsychotic medications are associated with weight gain and other metabolic changes among patients with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a recent analysis of data from the NIMH-funded Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness—Alzheimer’s Disease (CATIE-AD) study. The study was published online Apr. 15 in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

The CATIE-AD study compared the atypical antipsychotics olanzapine (Zyprexa), quetiapine (Seroquel) and risperidone (Risperdal) to a placebo (inactive pill) among 421 participants with Alzheimer’s disease. During the first 12 weeks of the trial, olanzapine and quetiapine were significantly associated with weight gain—up to 0.14 pounds per week. Women gained more weight than men and weight gain increased the longer a patient stayed on the medication. In addition, olanzapine was associated with a decrease in HDL (good) cholesterol and increased waist size. Previous results from CATIE-AD found only modest effectiveness in treating behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease while adverse effects limited improvements overall. The results of this latest analysis suggest further caution is needed when using atypical antipsychotics to treat Alzheimer’s patients.

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