Moderate-intensity exercise, like biking, swimming, or fast-paced walking, can help people with sickle cell disease make more blood vessels in their muscles. That’s according to new research.
For people with sickle cell disease, the body makes misshapen red blood cells
which get stuck in blood vessels and can cause pain and damage. Researchers wanted to find out if exercise would help improve blood flow.
First, all 33 people in the study had a biopsy of their thigh muscle. Then researchers randomly assigned 15 people to an 8-week exercise program. The people doing the exercise program rode a stationary bike for about 40 minutes 3 times each week. Doctors watched their blood pressure and made sure they drank enough water. After 8 weeks, everyone had another biopsy of their thigh muscle.
Doctors studied the muscle samples and looked for differences between the groups. The blood vessels themselves looked the same. But people who exercised had more blood vessels and doctors estimated that meant more blood could flow to their muscles.
Keep in mind
Nobody in this study had any complications from sickle cell disease, like stroke or acute chest syndrome. Everyone was closely monitored by a doctor during exercise. Some of the people in the study were also taking hydroxyurea.
Before starting any exercise program, ask your doctor what’s safe and best for you.
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