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28 January 2015, 05:00
Specialists in Bristol are working with Manchester United to revolutionise heart health.
A unique research project is getting underway to identify the effects of exercise on young hearts, which will see Manchester United's Academy players put through their paces and having their hearts monitored by the newest imaging technology, to give invaluable insights into how young people's hearts work during exercise.
The project, led by the Bristol Heart Institute at the University of Bristol together with partners Toshiba Medical Systems, Bristol's Clinical Research and Imaging Centre (CRICBristol), the University of Exeter's Children's Health and Exercise Research Centre and Manchester United, will identify the healthy limits and the wider benefits of exercise for young elite athletes, normal healthy children and children with congenital heart defects.
The research partnership, the first of its kind, will investigate the fitness levels of 300 children whilst exercising, when the heart is working harder. Participants are made up of 100 children born with heart conditions, 100 healthy children and adolescents and 100 elite junior athletes from the Manchester United Academy.
Professor Craig Williams, Head of the University of Exeter's Children's Health and Exercise Research Centre, explained: ''This research will provide us with the first ever normative database for the effects of exercise on young hearts. At the moment, we still don't understand what 'normal' looks like. By combining the three groups; elite athletes, normal healthy children and children with diseased hearts, we'll be able to identify what is abnormal and what is normal.
''This research will allow us to better identify how much activity and how often exercise can be taken, as at present clinicians aren't really sure what advice for children with certain conditions should be prescribed. The findings of this research will be a significant step forward for clinicians as care providers to deliver wellbeing guides for the children with congenital heart disease, their families and carers. Additionally, the benefits of better understanding the effect of exercise on normal healthy children will help the health service identify and prescribe regimes that help ease treatment burdens for young people with sedentary lifestyles.''
Dr Guido Pieles, NIHR-Clinical Lecturer in Paediatric Cardiology at the University of Bristol and Bristol Congenital Heart Centre, who is leading the research project, said: ''This is a unique study, using the latest technology to image the heart while it's 'at work' during exercise. We hope it will enable us to improve scanning protocols and applications, lead to a more precise and earlier diagnosis of heart function abnormalities and better monitoring of treatment progress in our young patients with congenital heart disease. Our research will also help evaluate the benefits of exercise for the heart in obesity and other conditions caused by increasing sedentary lifestyles and poor diet.''
Dr Dave Perry, Academy Doctor at Manchester United, said: ''Our players at the Academy have been offered an amazing opportunity to receive a most comprehensive screening of their cardiovascular (CVS) health. The screening process offered by Toshiba Medical Services in conjunction with the Bristol Heart Institute and University of Exeter's Children's Health and Exercise Research Centre will give a novel way of ensuring that they have no identifiable cardiac issues.''