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MyLVAD A. Caregiver


What kinds of exercises do you find the most effective for keeping your heart healthy with your LVAD?

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When working with folks in the hospital from the post operative period to discharge home, our therapy staff immediately begins developing an individualized mobility program. At first, we work on basic mobility (i.e. in and out of bed, standing to a chair, standing at the sink for washing up/hygiene). Next, we will begin short distance walking and seated bicycling. As folks progress, we will incorporate good bit of leg exercises. The large muscle groups of the legs tend to get quite weak in patients with advanced heart failure. This weakness can often make everyday activity much more difficult and take a fair amount of energy. Strengthening the quadriceps especially can make moving around more efficient and less tiresome. If folks have a any stairs at home, we practice at the hospital. Its also another great way to improve leg strength, so I'll incorporate it into the exercise program.

After discharge, I see folks about once per month in the LVAD clinic. We'll do a 6 minute walk test, talk about any mobility issues, troubleshoot methods of carrying the batteries and systems controller etc. Some folks have access to cardiac rehab and some don't. For those that don't, I'll help progress a walking and a home exercise program. When cleared by the physician, we'll start a low intensity resistance exercise program. Maybe therabands or free weights. Low weight, lots of repetition (3 to 4 sets of 12-15 repetitions). Of course, it depends on the patient and what he/she can tolerate. Postural exercise is also beneficial. If folks are using a vest to carry batteries, the shoulders may sit forward and cause mid-back/neck pain. We'll work on strengthening exercises for the shoulders and upper back as well as stretching to relieve any pain.

There are so many good methods of exercise with an LVAD. However, I really believe the most important thing to ask is "What type of exercise do I enjoy?" and "What are my goals?". In other words, what activities do I love and how do I build the strength and endurance to get there? It could be something as simple as walking the dog around the block, working in a shop (one of my friends/patients is a woodworker), walking around a big city with friends, returning to work or school. I could go on. This is probably the most important discussion I have with patients. We work together to create a program that helps folks do what they love to do most. It is truly a blessing in my life to be a small part of the big picture.

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Rhonda C.

Walking is a great way to introduce exercise. Being bed ridden can cause a person to drop muscle mass quickly. The muscles in the hips, legs and body core need to be strengthened. If possible, walk on uneven ground where the body needs to use muscles to stabilize. We walked outside on many different surfaces. Now, we're riding bicycles and that seems to have made a very positive contribution! If you have issues with balance, try investing in a tricycle. We're very happy with my partner's progress since he started riding his bike.

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So many people underrate the importance of our body's ability to lift itself and fortunately with assisted band training, these basic drills can take on all kinds of variations. If you don't believe me on how important these exercises are, watch our youth try doing a simple push up or pull up. Also remember as we age these simple movements will be the difference between independence and assistance in life. Unlimited strength training movements.

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