A new exercise programme to reduce heart disease risk in kidney transplant patients

Posted by ap507 at Dec 09, 2016 10:07 AM |
University of Leicester working with Loughborough University to develop new programme

Issued by Heart Research UK

A new exercise programme is being developed by researchers at Loughborough University, the University of Leicester and Leicester’s Hospitals to reduce the risk of heart disease in people who have had a kidney transplant.

More than 3,000 kidney transplants were carried out in the UK during the year 2015/16, while there were more than 5,000 people on the waiting list for a kidney.  While this can hugely transform their lives, these patients also face an increased risk of heart disease and general damage to the heart, which in turn can lead to kidney damage. 

Exercise is an important part of maintaining a healthy heart and recent research by the Loughborough and Leicester team suggests that while kidney transplant patients want to be active, they are unsure of how much exercise to do, what type to do and worry about ‘overdoing it’ or damaging their new kidney.  This new research project, funded by a £147,800 grant from national charity Heart Research UK, will compare the impact of different interval training programmes in kidney patients with the long term aim of developing safe and effective exercise programmes and guidelines to help reduce their risk of heart disease.

The study will take place at specially-adapted research gyms based at Loughborough University and the Leicester Diabetes Centre. It is part of the work being carried out by the Leicester-Loughborough Diet, Lifestyle and Physical Activity Biomedical Research Unit, which is harnessing the power of experimental science to explore and develop ways to help prevent and treat chronic disease.

As part of this unique study, 36 patients will be organised into three groups.  Each group will undertake different exercise training programmes that involve exercising three times a week for eight weeks, at the state-of-the-art gym facilities at Loughborough University and Leicester General Hospital.  Two groups will follow an exercise programme that involves alternating short bursts of high and lower intensity exercise.  The third will complete a steady, brisk cycle for 45 minutes at each session.

The researchers will look at both the attractiveness of each programme (how likely were patient’s to complete and stick to their assigned programme) and the impact it has had on individual heart risk (by looking at any changes in the markers for cardiovascular disease risk, arterial stiffness, blood pressure and lipid profiles). 

Dr Nicolette Bishop, who is leading the research team, said: “A donated kidney is an incredibly precious gift.  We know that transplant patients want to be active – and it’s important to exercise due to their increased risk of heart disease – but they don’t know where to start due to a lack of guidance.

“This research project is the first step in getting that guidance.  Our study will help us to choose the most suitable exercise programme for these patients, including finding out which type they prefer doing and how effective it is in lowering their heart disease risk.”

Co-investigator Dr Alice Smith, from the University of Leicester and who leads the Leicester Kidney Exercise Team, frequently gets emails and phone calls from kidney transplant recipients from all over the UK asking her about exercise. She said “These people are keen to be active as they feel so much better after receiving a new kidney, but we just don’t know enough about exercise with a kidney transplant to be able to advise them. We are delighted that we can undertake this important new study to begin to provide patients and doctors with the answers to their questions.”

John Savage, 35, an actor who played Leeds United player Gordon McQueen in the film The Damned United, understands the importance of exercise for kidney patients.

He was born with a condition called posterior urethral valve (PUV) where there is a blockage which affects the workings of the kidney.  Although he didn’t suffer immediate problems there was a steady decline which led to kidney failure when he was 31. 

“I watched myself just slide downwards,” said John. “It was a really frustrating time because the doctors who were looking after me said there was nothing they could do and said I would need dialysis and a transplant.”

John says he watched himself decline to the point where he became too ill to continue his acting career, but says that he was lucky to get the call to say they’d found a kidney match from a donated organ and he was prepared for the operation.

John says that after the transplant he immediately felt better and it gave him a new lease of life. While he is unable to return to the martial arts he did before he became ill, he enjoys running, volleyball and swimming. As a patient he welcomes the development of new exercise guidance created especially for kidney patients.  He believes that the guidance will make consultants more confident in telling their patients how active they can be, which will lead to an increase in confidence and better quality of life for kidney patients.    

Barbara Harpham, national director of Heart Research UK, said:  “Heart Research UK has already pioneered exercise prescription for youngsters with heart problems and if this research can find the right level of exercise for this specific condition, we hope that even more patients will be able to live healthier, happier, longer lives.”

Notes to editors

Heart Research UK

Heart Research UK is a visionary charity that has been helping hearts near you since 1967.  It funds ground-breaking medical research that benefits patients as soon as possible. 

Over the last 10 years the charity has funded over £10.6m on medical research in hospitals and universities across the UK as well as £1.2m on innovative community-based lifestyle projects that help people live healthier, happier and longer lives.  Unique, for a national charity, we spend money where it is given, helping hearts near you.

Loughborough University

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines. It was named the best in the country for its student experience in the 2016 THE Student Experience Survey and was ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2017.

About the University of Leicester

The University of Leicester is led by discovery and innovation – an international centre for excellence renowned for research, teaching and broadening access to higher education. The University of Leicester is ranked among the top one per cent of universities in the world by the THE World University Rankings and also among the top 100 leading international universities in the world. It is among the top 25 universities in the Times Higher Education REF Research Power rankings with 75% of research adjudged to be internationally excellent with wide-ranging impacts on society, health, culture, and the environment.

Find out more: http://le.ac.uk/about-us

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