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Reducing heart disease risk among kidney transplant patients

Researchers at Loughborough University, the University of Leicester and Leicester’s Hospitals are to develop exercise programmes for kidney transplant patients in an effort to reduce their risk of heart disease.

A kidney transplant can transform the life of someone with kidney failure, but these patients run a higher risk of heart disease which can damage their new kidney and stop them living life to the full.

Now a team at Loughborough University, University of Leicester and Leicester’s Hospitals – funded with a £147,800 grant from national charity Heart Research UK - is to compare different exercise programmes in kidney transplant patients with the long term aim of developing safe and effective exercise to help reduce their heart disease risk.

Regular exercise is an important part of a heart healthy lifestyle for everyone, but there are no exercise guidelines designed specifically for kidney transplant patients. 

Recent research by the Loughborough and Leicester team has shown that kidney transplant patients want to become active in an enjoyable way, but are not sure how much and what type of exercise is best for them and are worried about ‘overdoing it’ or damaging their new kidney.

This unique study will assess the suitability of three different exercise programmes with patients taking part in one of them - all of which will be done three times a week for eight weeks, in state-of-the-art gym facilities at Loughborough University.  Two of the programmes involve alternating short bursts of high and low intensity exercise, while a third is a steady, brisk walk for 45 minutes per session.

The study will involve 36 patients primarily from Leicestershire who regularly attend outpatient clinics at Leicester General Hospital.

Dr Nicolette Bishop from Loughborough University's National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine East Midlands and the Leicester-Loughborough Diet, Lifestyle and Physical Activity Biomedical Research Unit (BRU) is leading the research team. She said the study will give vital information on the willingness of patients to start each of the different exercise programmes, whether they manage to do three sessions a week, and whether they will stick at it for eight weeks. 

She added:  “It is important that kidney transplant patients, like everyone else, get enough exercise as there is a higher risk of heart disease among this group.  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.”   

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, longer lives.”

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