Dr Julee McDonagh at UOW Liverpool

UOW researcher to pilot home exercise program to prevent frailty in cardiovascular patients

UOW researcher to pilot home exercise program to prevent frailty in cardiovascular patients

Pilot program aims to reduce frailty through resistance exercise

University of Wollongong (UOW) and Western Sydney Local Health District conjoint academic Dr Julee McDonagh has been awarded $450,000 by the NSW Office of Health and Medical Research to pilot a nurse-coordinated resistance exercise program to improve frailty in cardiovascular patients.

Heart failure is a significant health concern globally, and its impact on the Australian population is substantial – it currently impacts 1-2 per cent of Australians, leading to a significant number of hospital admissions and a strain on the healthcare system.

Rates of heart failure tend to increase with age and the disease often coexists with other health conditions.

Around half of individuals who experience heart failure are susceptible to developing frailty, a distressing geriatric syndrome characterised by an 'accelerated ageing' phenomenon of a decline in physical and cognitive reserves, heightening a patient’s vulnerability to accidents, falls and longer stays in hospital.

Dr McDonagh will lead a project based at Blacktown Hospital that aims to address these adverse patient outcomes by implementing a home based, nurse coordinated resistance exercise program.

Resistance based exercise aims to build muscle tone and strength by working against a weight or force and can include body weight exercises, resistance bands and handheld weights.

The research project will use a pilot randomised controlled trial design to test if a three-month exercise program can reduce hospital admissions for adults with heart failure, as well as improve their frailty, physical function, and quality of life.

The exercise program will be co-designed with patients and health experts to be completed in the patient’s home. After the three-month program, group discussions will be held to obtain feedback on how people think the program will work in the long-term, with a view to extending the program to more patients.

Dr McDonagh said she has witnessed the effects frailty can have on people.

"Working as a nurse for many years and caring for people with heart failure, I witnessed firsthand the devastating effects frailty can have on people,” Dr McDonagh said.

“I am so grateful to receive this funding from the Office of Health and Medical Research which will allow me undertake this important research designed to improve the frailty and quality of life of people living with heart failure.”

UOW is committed to addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which provide a shared blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for everyone. This project addresses Goal 3: Good Health and Wellbeing, which aims to ensure healthy lives and well-being at all ages.