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Springfield College Prof. Headley Wins NIH Grant to Conduct Research on Exercise for Kidney Patients

October 6, 2009

SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Oct. 6, 2009 – Heart attack and stroke are by far the greatest killers of people with chronic kidney disease, and Springfield College Professor of Exercise Science Samuel Headley has a new $228,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate if exercise can improve the odds.

“There are approximately 26 million people in the United States with chronic kidney disease, and they are at very high risk of developing cardiovascular disease. We hope to alter the number of people who progress to that level,” Headley said. “People with the most serious stage of kidney disease, such as end-stage renal disease, are 15 to 30 times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than people of the same age who do not have kidney disease. The risk is greater for people with all levels of kidney disease than for healthy people of the same age.”

Headley is recruiting 50 local patients with chronic kidney disease caused by hypertension or diabetes for a 16-week study, which will include free exercise programs. He will schedule his work with patients at times convenient to them.

During the study, half of the group will perform 30 minutes of supervised moderate-intensity aerobic exercise three times weekly guided by a personal trainer at the college’s new Wellness and Recreation Complex. All participants who complete the study will receive a free three-month membership at the YMCAs of Greater Springfield or Wilbraham, along with a stipend.

On four occasions during the study, Headley will monitor each participant’s blood pressure. In three of those sessions, he will also analyze the patient’s diet and measure physical fitness, body fat, arterial stiffness, cholesterol, glucose, and vasoactive substances. The tests are free of charge.

“Kidney disease has its basis in untreated high blood pressure, which can also cause cardiovascular disease. We have seen that a single session of aerobic exercise reduces blood pressure for one hour in about 75 percent of patients,” Headley said. “We want to find out if a longer-term aerobic exercise program can favorably alter blood pressure in persons with chronic kidney disease. We also want to see if their response after one session relates to their response after 16 weeks of training,” he said.

Working with Headley will be two teams of specially trained graduate students from the Springfield College Department of Exercise Science and Sport Studies. One group will be personal trainers. The other group will conduct physical tests supervised by physicians or clinical faculty from the college’s physician assistant program.

Headley will accept patients who have been approved for the program by their primary care physician and nephrologist. Many of the patients will be referred by Dr. Michael Germain and Dr. Tony Poindexter of Western New England Renal & Transplant Associates.

Germain, who is the senior medical advisor for the study, has collaborated with Headley on other research studies over the past 10 years and on clinical internships for Springfield College students of clinical exercise physiology. He has also been a lecturer at the college.

Headley’s new study will be the latest in his series of research projects concerning kidney disease. Next month, he will give a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Society of Nephrology in San Diego on his research investigating whether diet and exercise can modify the progression of chronic kidney disease.

Last fall, the journal “Nephrology” published the results of Headley’s study showing that 40 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise significantly reduced blood pressure in kidney disease patients for the subsequent hour while they sat in a laboratory, but that blood pressure returned to elevated levels during the following 24 hours.

Another study by Headley showed that resistance training helped dialysis patients become stronger and improved their functioning. It was published in the August 2002 edition of the “American Journal of Kidney Disease.”

According to Charles J. Redmond, dean of the Springfield College School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, “Dr. Headley’s research will be one of the first studies completed through the new Springfield College Center for Wellness Education and Research, which opened on Sept. 1.

“Much of the center’s research will be completed in the college’s new Athletic Training/Exercise Science Complex, which is equipped with state-of-the-art laboratories and research space for the study of all aspects of human performance. The center will also utilize the college’s new Wellness and Recreation Complex, a multimillion-dollar facility which opened in 2008 and contains the latest cardiovascular training equipment.

“With faculty experts like Dr. Headley, supported by these new facilities that are among the finest of their kind in the United States, Springfield College intends for our new Center for Wellness Education and Research to produce groundbreaking research, be a national source of the latest wellness information, and design and present public wellness education programs.”

Headley expects to complete this newest research study by August 31, 2012, and to publish his findings afterwards.

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