Cardiovascular Disease Declines in Rich Countries but Grows Elsewhere Reply

A new Global Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Atlas portrays a divided world where rich countries are gradually freeing themselves from the yoke of CVD but where many poor and middle-income countries are still struggling.

Ischemic heart disease and stroke were the two biggest contributors to the global burden of disease in 2010, accounting for 5.2% and 4.1%, respectively, of all disability adjusted life years (DALYs)….

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

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Is cancer “by far, the harder problem”? Reply

Really? Does everyone seem to have cancer? Compared to heart disease is cancer “by far, the harder problem”?

Half a century ago, the story goes, a person was far more likely to die from heart disease. Now cancer is on the verge of overtaking it as the No. 1 cause of death.

Troubling as this sounds, the comparison is unfair. Cancer is, by far, the harder problem — a condition deeply ingrained in the nature of evolution and multicellular life.

–George Johnson: Why Everyone Seems to Have Cancer, The New York Times

Studies Suggest You Can Help Your Heart By Walking More And Eating More Fiber 1

It probably won’t come as a surprise, but walking more and eating more fiber are probably good for your heart. That’s the conclusion of two new studies, but because the studies relied on observational data it should be emphasized that they are incapable of demonstrating cause and effect. And it’s by no means clear that most people are willing to undertake the effort needed to achieve effective lifestyle changes like these.

Walking

In the first study, published in the Lancet, researchers analyzed data from 9,300 people with impaired glucose tolerance (and therefore at high risk for developing diabetes) and with existing cardiovascular disease or at high risk for CV disease.

Eating

In the second paper, published  in BMJ, investigators performed a systematic review of studies examining the effect of dietary fiber on cardiovascular and coronary heart disease.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Keep Moving 

 

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly: Stents In The News Reply

Three big stent stories were in the news today. You’d never know that all 3 were about the same topic.

 

The Ugly

 

The ugly side of stents is emphasized in David Armstrong’s Bloomberg News story on Mehmood Patel, the Louisiana interventional cardiologist serving a 10-year prison sentence for Medicare fraud. These days Patel “leads health-conscious inmates on a morning walk, then cracks open one of the medical journals on his prison-approved reading list. Counseling fellow convicts to keep their blood pressure down is about the extent of the doctoring done by the man who once boasted he was the busiest cardiologist in the nation.”

 

The Bad

 

Unlike Patel, Mark Midei, the poster-boy of overstenting, never faced criminal charges, but he did lose his medical license and faced an avalanche of lawsuits. Many have been settled our of court, but an important decision was reached yesterday in one very large remaining case. Jessica Anderson reports in the Baltimore Sun that a jury ruled that Midei “improperly placed three stents in the heart of a prominent businessman who didn’t need them.” The businessman is suing Midei and the former owners of his hospital, St. Joseph Medical Center, for $150 million. The businessman claims that he “lost millions of dollars after scaling back his career” after “Midei falsely led him to believe that he had serious coronary artery disease requiring stents.”

 

The Good

 

But it’s not all bad news for stents. In the New Yorker‘s Elements blog, cardiology fellow Lisa Rosenbaum adopts a much more nuanced view of stents. She writes that “stories about cardiologists behaving badly validate the conviction, common among both policymakers and the public, that misaligned financial incentives drive doctors to do things that they shouldn’t.”

 

But, she argues, the conservative view, based largely on the well known COURAGE trial, that medical therapy is just as good as a stent, “is a colossal oversimplification.”

 

Successful conservative management, however, depends on seeing patients regularly, so that you can titrate their medications and make sure that their cardiovascular risk factors are controlled. But Sun Kim didn’t come back.

 

Click here to read the full story on Forbes.

 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a well-known...

 

People Who Live Near Airports At Increased Risk For Cardiovascular Disease Reply

Most previous research on the health effects of noise has focused on road noise. Now two new observational studies published in BMJ extend the research to noise from airports and provide fresh evidence that people who live near airports are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

In the first paper, Anna Hansell and colleagues in the UK analyzed data from 3.6 million people living near Heathrow airport in London. People who lived in the noisiest areas had an elevated risk for stroke, coronary heart disease, and cardiovascular disease. …

Click here to read the full story on Forbes.

 

NEAR LOGAN AIRPORT-AIRPLANE COMING IN FOR A LA...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia) 

News From Our ‘Statin Civilization’: High-Dose Statins Found To Reduce Gum Disease Inflammation Reply

In addition to their well-known benefits in heart disease, high-dose statins appear to reduce gum inflammation caused by periodontal disease, a new report published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology shows. The findings offer more evidence that heart disease and gum disease may be linked, and also help support the view that statins achieve at least some of their effect not through their cholesterol-lowering effect but through separate inflammation-fighting mechanisms.

Researchers reported findings from 59 patients with cardiovascular disease or at high risk for cardiovascular disease who had evidence  of arterial inflammation on a  PET scan. The patients were randomized to a low (10 mg per day) or high (80 mg per day) dose of atorvastatin. After 12 weeks there was a significant reduction in periodontal inflammation as measured by PET in patients taking high dose atorvastatin. The effect was greatest in those patients who had active periodontal disease. There was evidence of a significant effect as early as 4 weeks. Furthermore, there was a strong correlation between reductions in periodontal inflammation and atherosclerosis, though the authors acknowledged that the precise nature of the association remains undefined.

Click here to read the full story on Forbes.

English: Periodontal bone loss shown in X-Ray ...

Periodontal bone loss shown in X-Ray image. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

European Heart Guidelines Based On Disgraced Research May Have Caused Thousands Of Deaths 2

Despite a 2-year-old scandal discrediting key evidence, current guidelines relying on this evidence have not been revised. As a result of physicians following these guidelines, some researchers say, it is possible that thousands of patients may have died each year in the UK alone. It is unlikely that a true understanding of the damage will ever be known.

Current European Society of Cardiology guidelines recommend that beta-blockers be given to many patients having surgery for noncardiac reasons to protect the heart during surgery. (US guidelines are somewhat less aggressive in their endorsement of perioperative beta-blockade.) The guidelines, which were published in 2009, were based on analyses of the available trials. The strongest evidence came from the DECREASE family of trials, which appeared to strongly support perioperative beta-blockade, and one other large trial, POISE, which raised concerns that beta-blockers might lead to an increase in deaths. When the ESC committee combined all the data they found a neutral effect on mortality but a strong benefit due to significant reductions in non-fatal MI and stroke with beta blocker use. This was the basis for the strong recommendation in the ESC guidelines.

In 2011, however, faith in the reliability of the DECREASE trials was shattered as a result of a scientific misconduct scandal centering on the principal investigator of the studies, the now disgraced Dutch researcher Don Poldermans. The issue was further complicated because, in addition to his key role in the trials, Poldermans was the chairman of the committee that drafted the guidelines.

Now, a group of UK researchers, led by Darrel Francis, have published in the journal Heart the results of a meta-analysis of the remaining non-DECREASE trials that tested perioperative beta-blockade. With the removal of the DECREASE trials the findings were strikingly different from the earlier analyses. In a combined population of 10,529 patients taken from 9 trials there was a statistically significant increase in the risk of death in the group of patients randomized to beta-blockers…

Click here to read the full story on Forbes.

Don Poldermans
Darrel Francis

Sex And The Cardiac Patient Should Not Be A Taboo Subject 3

It’s not an easy conversation to have. After a heart attack or other major cardiac event, talking about sex is awkward, and often avoided by patients, their partners, and physicians. But a new consensus statement from several major cardiology organizations urges physicians to get over their reluctance or embarrassment and counsel their cardiac patients about this important, but often neglected, aspect of their lives.

After a patient has a heart attack, stroke, cardiac surgery, cardiac device implantation, or is newly diagnosed with a cardiovascular condition, physicians and other healthcare professionals should provide individually tailored information and advice about a wide variety of issues relating to sexual activity, according to the consensus document developed by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the European Society of Cardiology and published in Circulation and the European Heart Journal. The advice “should address topics such as when to resume sex, specific methods and recommended positions, and the role of intimacy without sex,” said the American Heart Association in a press release.

The statement cites numerous concerns, both psychological and physiological, that patients may have after a coronary event, including “general anxiety, fear of having another MI, feeling unwanted by their partner or not good enough, changes in self-perceptions, inadequate knowledge regarding the impact of heart medications, and finally, partner concerns.”

Click here to read the full story on Forbes.

 

 

Studies Suggest Most Widely Used Cardiac Imaging Technique Is Overused Reply

Echocardiography is a safe, noninvasive tool to image the heart without the use of radiation. For this reason it has become the most frequently used method to look at the heart for a wide variety of medical indications. Now two new studies suggest that, despite its popularity, transthoracic echocardiography is often not beneficial. One study finds that in most cases echocardiography does not change the treatment of patients. A second study suggests that using echocardiography to screen low-risk people for heart disease is not warranted.

In the first study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine,  Susan Matulevicius and colleagues reviewed the patient records for 535 consecutive  standard echocardiograms performed at their hospital (the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center) in one month. Although the vast majority of cases were indicated according to current appropriate use criteria (AUC) — 91.8% were deemed appropriate, only 4.3% were deemed inappropriate, and 3.9% were deemed uncertain — less than a third of cases resulted in an active change in care…

In the second paper, also published in JAMA Internal Medicine, Norwegian researchers studied nearly 7,000 people who were already participating in the Tromsø observational study. The patients were randomized to receive an echocardiography screening examination or to a control group and were then followed for 15 years. Of the screening group patients, 7.6% ultimately received a diagnosis of a cardiac or valvular disorder.

Click here to read the full story on Forbes.

 

Large Meta-Analysis Quantifies Risk Of NSAIDs And Coxibs Reply

Findings from a very large meta-analysis of clinical trials of NSAIDs may now allow physicians to quantify the cardiovascular and gastrointestinal risks associated with these drugs. The results of the Coxib and traditional NSAID Trialists’ (CNT) Collaboration, employing data from more than 350,000 randomized patients, have now been published in the Lancet.

Here are some of the key findings:

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

English: Sintofarm

Athletes With Defibrillators Don’t Need To Quit Sports Reply

Although the American College of Cardiology and the European Society of Cardiology now advise people with ICDs not to participate in vigorous sports, a new study offers strong support for people with ICDs who want to take part in sports. Although a large number of people with ICDs are elderly heart failure patients who are unlikely to want to participate in sports, ICDs are also implanted in young and otherwise healthy people with genetic diseases that leave them at high risk for lethal arrhythmias.

Now findings from the ICD Sports Safety Registry, published in Circulation, provide vital new information about this important topic. The registry, which was performed with the assistance of patient advocacy groups, included 372 ICD patients between 10 and 60 years of age who participated in sports more vigorous than golf or bowling. The most common reasons for having an ICD among people in the registry were long-QT syndrome in 73 people, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in 63 people, and arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy in 55. 60 subjects were college age or younger who took part in competitive sports.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

HOLLAND, MI - MARCH 7:  Fennville High School ...

 

Another Cleveland Clinic Study Links TMAO To Atherosclerosis Reply

A new study from the Cleveland Clinic research group headed by Stanley Hazen offers more evidence in support of the hypothesis that TMAO (trimethylamine-N-oxide) may play a role in the development of heart disease. The new research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, follows closely on a related study published recently in Nature Medicine that received broad public attention.

The Nature Medicine paper demonstrated that digestive tract bacteria metabolize carnitine into trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), which had previously been linked to atherosclerosis in animals. The new research in NEJM focuses on another pathway that leads to TMAO production and provides for the first time a credible association between TMAO and cardiovascular disease in humans.

Click here to read the full story on Forbes.

Stanley Hazen

 

More Reasons Why Health Hype Stories Are Bad Reply

In response to my post yesterday about why health stories should nearly always be received with caution, I received the following comment from a distinguished cardiovascular researcher:

One lost point is the role of the investigators and media in hyping their research. Hazen (principal investigator of the first study) is a bright and thoughtful guy, but through the Cleveland Clinic PR department, his nice hypothesis-generating research got turned into the missing link between red meat and heart disease, which obviously is a huge leap. The paper itself is much more measured than the press release and subsequent coverage. Same for the carnitine meta-analysis It is a meta-analysis of small studies published in a 3rd tier medical journal. I haven’t read the original article, but I bet it is pretty measured in its discussion and conclusion. But then comes the press release and the media, and boom, we have a cure for heart disease that conflicts with a cause for heart disease. Both studies are hypothesis-generating and non-conclusive. They are important additions to our medical knowledge base, but offer nothing for the public right now.

So here I blame the PR departments, but the investigators go along with this, so they get some of the blame, as well as the media who hype it. By the way, from the standpoint of the investigators, the institutions, and the journals they published in, this media frenzy was considered a huge success. For the rest of the medical community and the patients, it was a nuisance, a distraction, led to confusion, and then phone calls to doctors.

Hype shot glass

I’d like to offer one additional caveat about the L-carnitine metaanalysis. This is a perfect example of a topic that might be seriously distorted by publication bias. In other words, a potentially important finding– in this case, a result showing that carnitine is beneficial after a heart attack– is much more likely to be published than a negative finding. This doesn’t mean that the metaanalysis is necessarily wrong, but it does provide yet another reason why we should always be careful when looking at studies like these.

 

 

Is Red Meat A Fish Story? Why You Should Never Believe Health Headlines 2

Don’t believe the the hype! That’s the cardinal rule to obey when reading health news. “Breakthroughs” and “cures” are rare, and should always be viewed with caution and skepticism.

This week was a great example. Last Sunday, the New York Times, the major networks, and a host of other media outlets (including this one) reported on a paper in  Nature Medicine about the discovery of a novel and potentially significant pathway linking red meat to heart disease. Briefly, the research suggested that carnitine, which is found naturally in high concentrations in red meat, can lead to atherosclerosis when it is converted by gut bacteria to a chemical called TMAO. Almost immediately I received a lot of comment from experts who raised serious questions about the research. Then today, a separate study was published with an entirely different perspective on carnitine. Although the two studies don’t directly contradict each other, they suggest that the real truth about carnitine is likely to be quite complex and will never be adequately summarized in a headline.

Click here to read the full story on Forbes.

Hype shot glass

 

Are Most People With Complex Coronary Disease Getting The Best Treatment? 1

angiogram

The relative value of PCI (stents) and bypass surgery for the treatment of people with blocked coronary arteries has been a topic of intense interest and debate for more than a generation now. Over time, the less invasive and more patient-friendly (and less scary) PCI has become the more popular procedure, but the surgeons (who perform bypass surgery) and cardiologists (who perform the less invasive PCI) have argued furiously about which procedure is safest and will deliver the most benefit in specific patient populations. In general, the most complex cases require the more thorough revascularization provided by surgery, while the more simple cases do well with PCI and can therefore avoid the trauma of surgery. But the specific criteria have remained murky, and interventional cardiologists have aggressively sought to take on increasingly more complex cases.

Now, long term results from a highly influential trial comparing the two procedures offer what is likely the most definitive solution we are likely to have for a very long time. Five year results from the SYNTAX trial have now been published in the Lancet.

Here’s some of the perspective on this study from two very savvy cardiologists, Rick Lange and L. David Hillis. (These comments are extracted from their original publication in CardioExchange. Note that I work on CardioExchange, which is published by the New England Journal of Medicine.)

…The “bottom line” conclusions are:

  1. CABG should remain the standard of care for patients with complex lesions…
  2. For patients with 3-vessel disease considered to be less complex… PCI is an acceptable alternative.
  3. All the data from patients with complex multivessel CAD should be reviewed and discussed by a cardiac surgeon and an interventional cardiologist, after which consensus on optimal treatment can be reached.

But Lange and Hillis, while they seem to largely agree with the study findings, also cast doubt on whether most physicians are likely to pay attention to the study details. They wonder whether most hospitals actually live up to the standards in the study, which requires, for each patient, a review of each patient by the multidisciplinary heart team, and the calculation of a complex SYNTAX score to establish the precise degree of risk.

Okay, let’s be honest….

  1. In your hospital, in what percentage of patients with left main or 3 vessel CAD are all the data systematically reviewed and discussed by a “Heart Team”?
  2. Do you calculate SYNTAX on all patients with left main or 3 vessel disease, or do you usually just “guestimate” lesion complexity?

If Lange and Hillis’s suspicions are correct, many people with complex coronary lesions are not receiving the best possible care. Hmmm.

Large Study Finds Genetic Links To Aortic Valve Calcification Reply

A genetic component is believed to play an important role in valvular heart disease, but the specific genes involved have not been identified. Now an interntional group of researchers has identified genetic variations that increase the risk for valvular calcification.

In a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine, members of the Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genome Epidemiology (CHARGE) consortium report on their search for genes associated with aortic valve calcification and mitral annular calcification in several of study cohorts. They found one SNP, in a gene previously shown to be associated with lipoprotein(a) levels and the risk of coronary artery disease, to be significantly associated with a doubling of the risk for aortic-valve calcification. This finding was replicated in additional cohorts.

Click here to read the full story on Forbes.

Large Meta-Analysis Finds No Harm Associated With Eggs 2

No food has had more ups and downs over the last century or so than the common egg. Following a long period in which eggs were ubiquitous and highly regarded, eggs fell from favor with the rise of concerns over cholesterol. Currently the American Heart Association recommends that people restrict dietary cholesterol to 300 mg per day, which effectively limits people to 1 egg per day at most. However, the relationship of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol  is, at best, tenuous, and a significant number of experts now believe that egg consumption poses no risk to cardiovascular health.

In a new paper published in BMJ, a group of researchers from China and Boston performed a meta-analysis of 8 studies that included 263 938 participants for coronary heart disease (CHD) and 210 404 participants for stroke and followed them for 8 to 22 years. The authors found no evidence for an association between egg consumption and either coronary heart disease or stroke…

Click here to read the full story on Forbes.

Ohio Hospital And Cardiology Group Pay $4.4 Million To Settle Charges Over Unnecessary PCIs 2

In 2006, Reed Abelson in the New York Times reported that the PCI rate in Elyria, Ohio was four times the national average. Now, six-and-a-half years later, the local hospital and cardiology group have agreed to pay $4.4 million to settle US allegations “that the hospital and the physicians “performed angioplasty and stent placement procedures on patients who had heart disease but whose blood vessels were not sufficiently occluded to require the particular procedures at issue.”

The leader of the cardiology group defends its quality of care and says it “settled this matter so we can put it behind us and move forward.”

Read my complete story about this on Forbes.

American Heart Association Lists Top 10 Research Advances Reply

The AHA has published its annual list of the top 10 advances in heart disease and stroke research. It’s probably worth remarking that not a single item on the list is related to drug therapy. I haven’t gone back and checked past lists, but I would bet this hasn’t happened before.

Here’s the list:

  1. Extended CPR saves lives
  2. Converting “non beating” heart cells into “beating” heart cells
  3. Biopsied heart cells improved heart function and reduced scars
  4. “Disconnecting” the kidneys might be the key to treating high blood pressure
  5. Progress for children in transplant bridging and Kawasaki Disease
  6. Why children and adolescents should “just say no” to sugary drinks
  7. Global impact: ECHO screening for rheumatic heart disease
  8. Devices for stroke
  9. Ideal cardiovascular health practices lead to longer life, lower risk
  10. Bypass surgery vs. drug-coated stents for diabetes patients

Click here to read the full AHA press release. with full explanations and citations…