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Curr Heart Fail Rep. 2018 Dec;15(6):323-331. doi: 10.1007/s11897-018-0408-6.

Impaired Exercise Tolerance in Heart Failure: Role of Skeletal Muscle Morphology and Function.

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The University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX, USA.
Department of Medicine, Section of Geriatric Cardiology, Veterans Affairs Geriatric Research Education, and Clinical Center, University of Pittsburgh, 3471 Fifth Avenue, Suite 500, Pittsburgh, PA, 15213, USA.



To discuss the impact of deleterious changes in skeletal muscle morphology and function on exercise intolerance in patients with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF) and heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF), as well as the utility of exercise training and the potential of novel treatment strategies to preserve or improve skeletal muscle morphology and function.


Both HFrEF and HFpEF patients exhibit a reduction in percent of type I (oxidative) muscle fibers and oxidative enzymes coupled with abnormal mitochondrial respiration. These skeletal muscle abnormalities contribute to impaired oxidative metabolism with an earlier shift towards glycolytic metabolism during exercise that is strongly associated with exercise intolerance. In both HFrEF and HFpEF patients, peripheral "non-cardiac" factors are important determinants of the improvement in exercise tolerance following aerobic exercise training. Adjunctive strategies that include nutritional supplementation with amino acids and/or anabolic drugs to stimulate anabolic molecular pathways in skeletal muscle show great promise for improving exercise tolerance and treating heart failure-associated sarcopenia, but these efforts remain early in their evolution, with no immediate clinical applications. There is consistent evidence that heart failure is associated with multiple skeletal muscle abnormalities which impair oxygen uptake and utilization and contribute greatly to exercise intolerance. Exercise training induces favorable adaptations in skeletal muscle morphology and function that contribute to improvements in exercise tolerance in patients with HFrEF. The contribution of skeletal muscle adaptations to improved exercise tolerance following exercise training in HFpEF remains unknown and warrants further investigation.


Amino acids; Cardiorespiratory fitness; Exercise training; Magnetic resonance spectroscopy; Mitochondrial function; Oxidative metabolism

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