$3.36 million UNMC study to examine exercise adherence in heart failure patients

As the population ages, heart failure will become an even bigger problem in the United States.

The University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing Lincoln Division has received a $3.36 million grant to study long-term adherence to exercise in heart failure patients. Funding comes from the National Institutes of Health.

As the population ages, heart failure will become an even bigger problem in the United States. Heart failure causes weakening of the heart and affects the heart’s ability to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.

Though the disease is chronic, progressive and incurable, medications and lifestyle change can help people live longer with more active lives. Regular exercise helps patients tolerate more activity, reduce fatigue and improve their mood.

The 5-year clinical research study, which will begin in November, be conducted at Bryan Heart in Lincoln and in Detroit at Wayne State University and Henry Ford Health System. The study will enroll 256 participants.

“Twenty years ago we would have said you shouldn’t exercise, but now we know that exercise is safe and beneficial,” said Bunny Pozehl, Ph.D., UNMC College of Nursing professor and principal investigator of the study. “The biggest problem is getting patients to adhere to exercise. There have been no studies to date focusing on this problem.”

Two groups of randomized patients will be studied. Each group will receive access to an exercise facility to learn how to exercise and what symptoms to watch for. One group will receive educational group sessions and support for adherence from an exercise coach.

“One of the barriers for our patients is they get short of breath, tire more easily, and they’re afraid to initiate exercise on their own,” Dr. Pozehl said. “They fear that exercise will stress their failing heart too much. What they don’t realize is exercise is beneficial and will actually help them feel better and have more energy.”

Dr. Pozehl, a nurse practitioner who’s worked with the heart failure clinic at Bryan Heart  for 17 years, said some of the common exercise barriers to heart failure patients are the cost of exercise programs and the fear that exercise may cause complications. Structured, supervised exercise programs for heart failure patients currently aren’t reimbursed by most insurance companies and Medicare.

For more information, contact Rita McGuire, Ph.D., 402-472-4712 or  rita.mcguire@unmc.edu.

This work was supported by the NIH’s National Heart Lung and Blood Institute under grant number R01HL112979.

Through world-class research and patient care, UNMC generates breakthroughs that make life better for people throughout Nebraska and beyond. Its education programs train more health professionals than any other institution in the state. Learn more at unmc.edu.





Vicky Cerino
UNMC Public Relations
(402) 559-5190