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In studies, exercise tops angioplasty

Associated Press / August 31, 2009

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BARCELONA - Working up a sweat may be even better than angioplasty for some heart patients, researchers say.

Studies have shown heart patients benefit from exercise, and some have shown that it works better than surgical procedures. At a meeting of the European Society of Cardiology yesterday, several experts said doctors should focus more on persuading their patients to exercise rather than simply doing angioplasties.

Angioplasty is the top treatment for people having a heart attack or hospitalized with worsening symptoms. It involves using a tiny balloon to flatten a blockage and propping the heart artery open with a mesh tube called a stent.

“It’s difficult to convince people to exercise instead of having an angioplasty, but it works,’’ said Rainer Hambrecht of Klinikum Links der Weser in Bremen, Germany.

Hambrecht published a study in 2004 that found that nearly 90 percent of heart patients who rode bikes regularly were free of heart problems one year after they started their exercise regimen. Among patients who had an angioplasty instead, only 70 percent were problem-free after a year.

Hambrecht is now conducting a similar trial, which he expects to confirm his initial findings: that for some heart patients, exercise is more effective than a surgical procedure.

Other experts agreed that that would probably be the case.