USC study takes on ‘ticking time bomb’ condition | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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USC study takes on ‘ticking time bomb’ condition

A specialised research team at the University of the Sunshine Coast is carrying out vital research into ‘forgotten’ cardiovascular conditions.

Associate Professor Chris Askew, who leads the VasoActive research group at USC, said the prevalence of cardiovascular disease in the Sunshine Coast region was currently 22 percent, slightly higher than the national average of 21.5 percent.

“Significantly, the Sunshine Coast has a much higher prevalence of cardiovascular disease than in the inner-city areas of Brisbane which ranges between 11.5 and 19 percent,” he said.

The research group has launched a major study of patients suffering small abdominal aortic aneurysm – known as AAA – in an attempt to find out if exercise can aid the condition.

Watch the video of the research group conducting stress tests on AAA study participants.

“AAA is the enlargement of the abdominal aorta and is most common older adults over 60 years of age, particularly men,” Dr Askew said.

“Many patients diagnosed with AAA have a fear that they are living with a ticking time bomb, so it’s important that we investigate new treatment options.”

“There is a risk that an aneurysm can rupture, and the outcomes of the can be devastating.”

“The only recognised treatment of the condition is surgery, but operating early doesn’t improve outcomes long term.”

Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Tom Bailey will head the study, focusing on cardiovascular function and the circulating blood markers of AAA patients following acute exercise.

“We hope to recruit up to 25 AAA patients through a screening process at hospitals on the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane, but we also need healthy age-matched males and females to volunteer to be part of the study.”

All members of the study will be required to perform two 30-minute cycling sessions, followed by 90 minutes of recovery under lab supervision.

People willing to volunteer in the study can contact Dr Baily by email or by phoning (07) 5456 5718.

“The patients who suffer from AAA generally have low cardiorespiratory fitness as they’re not sure if exercise is safe, even though it’s been shown that survival and quality of life is improved if patients have a higher level of fitness,” Dr Bailey said.

“We want to take investigations one step further and determine what types of exercise are likely to be the most effective for improving inflammation and vascular stiffness.”
The research team is also investigating whether dietary supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids can slow aneurysm growth.

The study is part of a multi-centre trial with Professor Jon Golledge at James Cook University in Townsville, in collaboration with vascular surgery and cardiology staff at Nambour Hospital, as well as Sunshine Coast private surgeons.

The National Health and Medical Research Council Centre of Research Excellence for Peripheral Arterial Diseases is funding the project and, in addition, USC is funding scholarships for PhD students to work on cardiovascular studies.

— Megan Woodward

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