Chronic heart failure is a condition whereby the heart is no longer able to maintain its function and is unable to effectively pump blood to the lungs and the rest of the body. This is commonly caused by conditions like ischaemic heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes amongst others.

The good news is just because you’ve been diagnosed with CHF doesn’t mean you can’t maintain your quality of life. There’s plenty of lifestyle changes that can be done to improve your health.

Lifestyle factors affecting Chronic Heart Failure include:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • High salt intake
  • High fat, low nutrient diet

CHF tends to affect elderly people. It occurs in about 1% of people aged 50-59, but becomes more common in the age group 80-89 where its occurrence rate is over 50%. Lifetime risk for developing heart failure is 1 in 5 among both men and women. In Australia it accounts for 2% of all deaths.

Considerable research has shown exercise is an integral component of non-medicinal management of CHF and provides substantial physiological and psychological benefits.

Other benefits of exercise:

  • Increases Cardiovascular function therefore improving clinical outcomes.
  • Improves muscle strength and endurance.
  • Improves functional capacity and ability to complete ADLs.
  • Improves Quality of life.
  • Reduces anxiety and symptoms of depression.
  • Improves cardiovascular risk by lowering cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure.
  • Reduces the occurrence and severity of the signs and symptoms of associated with CHF.
  • Slows the rate of progression of the disease.

Remember, we are all different and you should consult a specialist like a MyEP Exercise Physiologist before commencing any exercise program. So how much exercise should a patient with CHF do?

  • Perform aerobic activity (bike-riding, walking etc) on most days, ideally for at least 30 min.
  • Perform at your own intensity and build gradually.
  • Resistance training (weights, therabands etc) should be completed 2+ days a week.
  • Incidental activities can be exercise too, gardening, housework, and stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Always remember – Some Movement is always better than no Movement!

When it comes to combating CHF, exercise is only one of the health pillars- healthy nutrition, quality sleep and reduced stress also play a major role.