Griffith Health Institute (GHI) researchers are focusing on healthy hearts to provide valuable knowledge and effective rehabilitation programs for those with heart disease.
The new study involves a group of endurance athletes aiming to determine the effects of prolonged exercise on heart function.
“Minor changes to your heart can affect your entire body,” said Associate Professor Luke Haseler, Director of GHI’s Heart Foundation Research Centre.
“By having an in-depth understanding of how a healthy heart functions and adapts long-term to exercise, we can translate these beneficial effects for people with cardiovascular disease (CVD) who are undertaking cardiac rehabilitation programs.
“With CVD affecting around 3.5 million1 Australians, this research could provide valuable insight for specialists developing rehabilitation programs to minimise further damage to the heart and aid in the repair of damage incurred.”
The trial is being conducted at Griffith’s Gold Coast campus, but is likely to provide national impact in terms of advancements of CVD treatments and a reduced financial burden. CVD remains the most expensive disease group in Australia, costing about $5.9 billion in 2004-51.
Supervising cardiologist, Professor Jonathan Chan, is one of five researchers who will be analysing cardiac data from approximately 45 endurance athletes, using advanced cardiac
imaging techniques by echocardiography.
“We are looking at the heart as it moves through the cardiac cycle during exercise, generating images of different planes of the heart and identifying the changes in the heart muscle mechanics in response to prolonged exercise,” said Professor Chan.
Regional heart function has only recently been investigated in the context of exercise-induced adaptations to the heart.
To more completely understand the physiological importance of these changes and the long-term effects of them, the research team is using a new advancement in technology known as tissue Doppler during echocardiography. Tissue Doppler has the capability of looking at different regions of the heart and can identify subtle alterations in regional heart function.