Testing tickers during training

Griffith Health Institute (GHI) researchers are focusing on healthy hearts to provide valuableknowledge and effective rehabilitation programs for those with heart disease.
The new study involves a group of endurance athletes aiming to determine the effects ofprolonged exercise on heart function.

“Minor changes to your heart can affect your entire body,” said Associate Professor LukeHaseler, Director of GHI’s Heart Foundation Research Centre.

“By having an in-depthunderstanding of how a healthy heart functions and adapts long-term to exercise, we can translatethese beneficialeffects for people with cardiovascular disease (CVD) who are undertaking cardiacrehabilitation programs.

“With CVD affecting around 3.5 million1 Australians, this research could provide valuable insightfor specialists developing rehabilitation programs to minimise further damage to the heart and aidin the repair of damage incurred.”

National impact

The trial is being conducted at Griffith’s Gold Coast campus, but is likely to provide national impactin terms of advancements of CVD treatments and a reduced financial burden. CVD remains themost 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 beanalysing 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, generatingimages of different planes of the heart and identifying the changes in the heart muscle mechanicsin response to prolonged exercise,” said Professor Chan.

Regional heart function has only recently been investigated in the context of exercise-inducedadaptations to the heart.

To more completely understand the physiological importance of these changes and the long-termeffects of them, the research team is using a new advancement in technology known as tissueDoppler during echocardiography. Tissue Doppler has the capability of looking at different regionsof the heart and can identify subtle alterations in regional heart function.