Prague, Czechia – 20 May 2023: People with strong legs are less likely to develop heart failure after a heart attack, according to research presented today at Heart Failure 2023, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).1
Myocardial infarction is the most common cause of heart failure,2 with around 6–9% of heart attack patients going on to develop the condition.3,4 Previous research has shown that having strong quadriceps is associated with a lower risk of death in patients with coronary artery disease.5
This study tested the hypothesis that leg strength is associated with a lower risk of developing heart failure after acute myocardial infarction. The study included 932 patients hospitalised in 2007 to 2020 with acute myocardial infarction who did not have heart failure prior to the admission and did not develop heart failure complications during their hospital stay. The median age was 66 years and 753 participants (81%) were men.
Maximal quadriceps strength was measured as an indicator of leg strength. Patients sat on a chair and contracted the quadriceps muscles as hard as possible for five seconds. A handheld dynamometer attached to the ankle recorded the maximum value in kg. The measurement was performed on each leg and the researchers used the average of both values. Strength was expressed relative to body weight, meaning that quadriceps strength in kg was divided by body weight in kg and multiplied by 100 for a % body weight value. Patients were classified as ‘high’ or ‘low’ strength according to whether their value was above or below the median for their sex.
The median value for women was 33% body weight and the median value for men was 52% body weight. A total of 451 patients had low quadriceps strength and 481 had high strength. During an average follow-up of 4.5 years, 67 patients (7.2%) developed heart failure. The incidence of heart failure was 10.2 per 1,000 person-years in patients with high quadriceps strength and 22.9 per 1,000 person-years in those with low strength.
The researchers analysed the association between quadriceps strength (low vs. high) and the risk of developing heart failure. The analysis was adjusted for factors known to be associated with the development of heart failure after myocardial infarction including age, sex, body mass index, prior myocardial infarction or angina pectoris, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, peripheral arterial disease and kidney function. Compared with low quadriceps strength, a high strength level was associated with a 41% lower risk of developing heart failure (hazard ratio [HR]: 0.59; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.35–1.00; p=0.048).
The investigators also analysed the association between quadriceps strength as a continuous variable and the risk of developing heart failure. Each 5% body weight increment in quadriceps strength was associated with an 11% lower likelihood of heart failure (HR 0.89; 95% CI 0.81–0.98; p=0.014).
Study author Mr. Kensuke Ueno, a physical therapist at the Kitasato University Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Sagamihara, Japan said: “Quadriceps strength is easy and simple to measure accurately in clinical practice. Our study indicates that quadriceps strength could help to identify patients at a higher risk of developing heart failure after myocardial infarction who could then receive more intense surveillance. The findings need to be replicated in other studies, but they do suggest that strength training involving the quadriceps muscles should be recommended for patients who have experienced a heart attack to prevent heart failure.”
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Notes to editor
Funding: This work was partially supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) KAKENHI Grant Number 21H03309.
Disclosures: The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.
References and notes
1The abstract ‘Leg strength and incidence of heart failure in patients with acute myocardial infarction’ will be presented during the session ‘Rehabilitation and Sports Cardiology – Cardiovascular Rehabilitation’ which takes place on 20 May at 16:00 CEST at Moderated ePosters 3.
2Jenča D, Melenovský V, Stehlik J, et al. Heart failure after myocardial infarction: incidence and predictors. ESC Heart Fail. 2021;8:222–237.
3Lewis EF, Moye LA, Rouleau JL, et al. Predictors of late development of heart failure in stable survivors of myocardial infarction: the CARE study. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2003;42:1446–1453.
4Spencer FA, Meyer TE, Gore JM, Goldberg RJ. Heterogeneity in the management and outcomes of patients with acute myocardial infarction complicated by heart failure. Circulation. 2002;105:2605–2610.
5Kamiya K, Masuda T, Tanaka S, et al. Quadriceps strength as a predictor of mortality in coronary artery disease. Am J Med. 2015;128:1212–1219.
About Heart Failure 2023 & World Congress on Acute Heart Failure
Heart Failure is the annual congress of the Heart Failure Association (HFA) of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).
About the Heart Failure Association
The Heart Failure Association (HFA) is a branch of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). Its aim is to improve quality of life and longevity, through better prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart failure, including the establishment of networks for its management, education and research.
About the European Society of Cardiology
The European Society of Cardiology brings together health care professionals from more than 150 countries, working to advance cardiovascular medicine and help people lead longer, healthier lives.
Information for journalists about registration for Heart Failure 2023
Heart Failure 2023 takes place 20 to 23 May at the O2 universum in Prague, Czechia and online. Explore the scientific programme.
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