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Exercise provides hope for kidney disease patients and their vulnerable hearts

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Exercise provides hope for kidney disease patients and their vulnerable hearts

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Published by University of Leicester Press Office for University of Leicester in Health and also in Education

A podcast recording of Dr James Burton explaining his new research project is available to embed and download at: http://soundcloud.com/university-of-leicester/james-burton

A Leicester doctor has become the first renal physician in the country to be awarded the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Clinician Scientist Award. The fellowship, worth more than £1 million, will fund a five-year study into the effects of exercise on heart disease in patients with chronic kidney disease who are on dialysis.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) affects approximately eight per cent of the population and is increasing due to rising obesity, diabetes and hypertension levels. Surprisingly, heart disease – not kidney disease – is the primary cause of death for patients on dialysis who are up 100 times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke than members of the general population.

Unfortunately traditional methods used to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, for example controlling diet, lowering cholesterol and good management of diabetes, have shown to be completely ineffective at improving outcomes in this patient group.

The new study will look at the effects and benefits of exercise on heart health in 130 patients with end stage kidney disease across the Leicestershire renal network. It is expected that the research will confirm that exercise during dialysis is safe, well-tolerated, and improves both the quality of life and cardiac health of dialysis patients.

Award recipient, Dr James Burton, Senior Lecturer in Renal Medicine and Honorary Consultant Nephrologist at the University of Leicester and Leicester General Hospital, explained: “There is something unique about patients with kidney disease who have very vulnerable hearts and so we need to start thinking outside the box to develop new therapies to reduce their risk of heart disease.

“Our dialysis patients come for treatment within the Leicester network for four hours three times a week, which makes them a captive audience. We want to use this time to encourage them to exercise. Cycling is the best form of exercise for these patients as it uses the most muscle groups and won’t interfere with their treatment, so we will be asking them to cycle for half an hour during each dialysis session.

“We all know exercise is good for us, but after spending three days a week in hospital, the last thing these patients want to do is go to the gym. Therefore if we can offer them an individualised exercise plan during their treatment, we hope to help the patients feel even better and live longer, reducing their risk of heart disease.”

A specially-adapted exercise bike will be utilised so that patients can undertake supervised exercise for half an hour, three times a week whilst undergoing their dialysis treatment. Previous studies have shown that exercise can improve the quality of life of patients on dialysis, but this will be the first of its kind to investigate the impact of cardiac health in this group.

Professor David Wynford-Thomas, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Head of the College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology, Dean of Medicine at the University of Leicester, and Non-Executive Director at Leicester’s Hospitals added: “We are delighted that one of our young clinical academics has succeeded in winning this highly competitive award.  His work will add further to Leicester’s already strong track-record in kidney and heart research, and has the promise of making a real difference to the lives of patients on dialysis.”

The University of Leicester is a national centre of excellence for research into chronic kidney disease and is investing £42 million into a new Centre for Medicine which will be a research hub into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of some of today’s major health problems, including kidney disease. Due to open in autumn 2015, the new facility will be shining example of the both the University’s and Leicester’s Hospitals ongoing commitment to research-led teaching.

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