Heart Beat October 2016 Issue

Cutting Cardiac Event Risks, Gallstone Disease, Omega-3s for Heart Attack Healing

Full Adherence to Medication Therapy Cuts Cardiac Event Risks and Costs

Not surprisingly, a recent study found that full adherence to guideline-recommended therapies leads to fewer major adverse cardiac events and lower healthcare costs. The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, included more than 4,000 post-heart attack patients and almost 13,000 individuals with atherosclerotic disease. In the heart attack group, patients who were fully adherent had a significantly lower risk of major events than those who did not strictly follow their medication regimen. The study specifically focused on patients who were prescribed statins and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. The financial costs were also less severe in the fully adherent group, as researchers noted the greater likelihood of hospitalizations for those who did not follow their physician’s recommendations. The difference in financial costs and event risks were even greater between the the atherosclerotic disease patients who did not adhere fully to their doctor’s treatment plan and those who didn’t. Researchers acknowledged that there are often very good reasons why some individuals can’t or don’t stick with their treatment plans. The number of pills a person must take daily, the costs of medications, whether the patient lives alone, and other health problems can all interfere with strict adherence. The researchers also stressed the importance of physicians working more closely with their patients to develop strategies that will improve adherence in the long term. If you have trouble paying for your medications or having difficulty taking them, talk with your doctor. There are many programs that can help patients with the costs of their medications. Likewise, there are therapies to help with swallowing problems and products to help people take the right number of pills each day.

Gallstone Disease May Increase Risk of Coronary Heart Disease

A history of gallstone disease may put you at higher risk for developing coronary heart disease, according to a study published recently in the American Heart Association journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology. Gallstone diseases is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders. It shares many of the same risk factors as coronary heart disease, including diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and a poor diet. In an analysis of seven studies involving more than 840,000 people, researchers found that a history of gallstone disease was linked to a 23 percent increased risk of developing heart disease. The researchers emphasized that anyone with gallstone disease should be particularly aware of his or her heart health and should work to minimize or control all risk factors. Interestingly, even people with gallstone disease who were otherwise healthy and did not have risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, were also at higher risk for heart disease. The risks of developing heart disease were about the same for men and women with gallstone disease.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids from Fish Oil May Help Healing After Heart Attack

Taking high-dose supplements of omega-3 fatty acid supplement from fish oil may help improve heart function and reduce scarring after a heart attack, according to research published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. Following a heart attack, the shape of the heart and its ability to function can change. This process, known as remodeling, is linked with poor outcomes and could eventually lead to heart failure. While cardiac rehab and a heart-healthy lifestyle can often help improve cardiovascular health after a heart attack and extend life, there are few proven therapies that can truly improve healing and prevent adverse remodeling. Previous studies have touted the benefits of fish oil, both from dietary sources and supplements, but the mechanisms by which omega-3s actually aid the heart were unknown. In the OMEGA-REMODEL clinical trial, patients took either a placebo or a dose of four grams of omega-3 fatty acids for six months. Compared to those taking the placebo, heart attack patients who took the omega-3 supplements experienced significant reductions in remodeling and in a measurement of scarred connective tissue formation in the part of the heart that was not damaged during the heart attack. Researchers said that omega-3 fatty acids allow the heart to contract better and reduce scarring in the undamaged region of the heart—an area that can often suffer in the wake of a heart attack.

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