British Liver Trust
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Should individual with liver disease undertake cardio vascular exercise when ascites is present?, If so kind of exercise how often & risks

It is frequently claimed that exercise is an essential element in the therapy associated with many diseases of the liver and particularly in relation to aspects such as weight control, osteoporosis, and muscle wasting etc. Aerobic and light weight bearing exercises are often suggested as those that will most assist the cardio vascular system and aid the liver but I have not been able to find anything to support whether or not this approach regarding the therapeutic benefits of exercise is also relevant where ascites is present.

I do remember reading a published report on medical research relating to the response of the heart to exercise that was conducted some while ago and this involved a group of people who all had cirrhosis (some as a result of alcohol abuse and some as a result of other causal factors). Some had ascites and some did not The outcome of the research was that exercise could have adverse affects on the heart and especially when ascites is present and it seems this is because of the increased volume of blood and fluid passing through the heart which then has to work harder with the ejection function. However I am not a doctor and do not know if I understood the report correctly but if I did then the outcome seems to fly in the face of the stated wisdom that individuals with liver disease should try to exercise.

I have raised my query with a couple of doctors I know and while they support the exercise theory they were unable to give me a definite answer about exercising, or trying to exercise ,when ascites is present.

I have seen past posts on this forum from people with liver disease that participate or have participated in exercise and sport etc so I am hoping that someone may have experience or received advice on this aspect or perhaps have a good knowledge of human and exercise physiology which will enable them to offer some input or guidance in relation to my question.

All advice and guidance will be welcome

Thank you

1 Reply

Do you know your current haemoglobin level and your red blood count (RBC). Its not advised to exercise if these are low. Strenuous exercise can increase creatinine levels and ALT levels. Strenuous exercise can also cause dehydration- with ascites I assume you are on diuretics to keeping your fluids and electrolytes balanced so this needs to be done with care.

I'd be checking my CBC, FBC and LFT results and making a decision after that - if they are all normal, then carry on with the exercise. If they are not, I would be taking regular gentle exercise but nothing cadiovascular.


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