ESC Working Group and Association publish first-time position paper
The diagnosis and treatments of congenital heart disease have improved so much that many babies now born with heart defects can still look forward to a long and fulfilling life. Just two generations ago, the majority of babies born with heart defects died before their first birthday, but today many of these conditions can be corrected. Indeed, the population of patients with congenital heart disease who reach adulthood - and the number of adults - is now expected to grow at a rate of 5% per year. However, residual lesions may persist such that some patients may still need lifelong care.
Many in this newly emerging patient group have been heavily protected from birth and encouraged towards a sedentary non-disruptive lifestyle. In fact, one study found that only one in five children with congenital heart disease had ever been given formal advice on physical activity. Yet the truth is that exercise is as beneficial for this group as it is for any other; but which physical activities and with what frequency and intensity?
New recommendations published today by the Working Group of Grown Up Congenital Heart Disease and the Section of Sports Cardiology of the EACPR emphasise that the majority of those with congenital heart disease will achieve "significant improvement of their exercise capacity as well as their psychological state". The key, says the report's first author Professor Werner Budts from the University Hospital Leuven, Belgium, is that the activity is appropriate for each individual.
"We hope that these recommendations will offer reassurance to patients and physicians alike, and encourage a physically active life style, so that patients with congenital heart disease can achieve the benefits of regular exercise at the lowest possible risk," said Professor Budts.
The recommendations - the first ever specifically for adolescents and young adults with congenital heart disease - cover a wide range of physical exercise, from everyday activity to participation in leisure time sports, with the recommendation of individualised exercise prescription based on five hemodynamic parameters: ventricular function, pulmonary arterial pressure, aortic diameter, arrhythmia, and arterial saturation. These five parameters provide a basis for evaluation and for a tailored approach to each individual.