October 6, 2010

Self-Injections of Nesiritide Improves Function of Heart in Heart Failure

Posted in New Heart Studies tagged , , , , , , , , at 3:27 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

photo by m_bartosch

Patients with chronic heart failure are frequently admitted to the hospital for heart problems.  The latest study is showing that heart failure patients can get benefit from injections of medicine at home.

The newest medicine on the heart failure scene which was originally introduced in 2001 is called nesiritide or Natrecor.  It is an IV or injection-only solution that helps with relaxing muscles and improving blood flow during a bad heart failure episode.  While there is some controversy surrounding nesiritide, this new study suggested it can be given safely at home.  Not only was it reported as safe, but the study also showed that the heart actually looked better when viewed by Cardiac MR imaging.

Of course, there is always a disclaimer to be noted in a study.  This study was small and used nesiritide in an unusual fashion.  Most patients receive nesiritide by IV in the hospital.  A very large study regarding the overall safety of nesiritide is supposed to be presented next month (November).  I will make sure to write a post about it once the results become available!

September 20, 2010

Omega-3 Study Shows Improvement in Heart Failure

Posted in Helpful Heart Links, New Heart Studies tagged , , , , , , , , at 7:03 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

horsepills

Image by D'Arcy Norman via Flickr

Yet another study has shown the benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids (like in fish oil) in people with heart disease.

This latest study though has opened up a new area of benefit possibilities for Omega-3’s.  It looked at the structure and function of the heart in heart failure patients taking Omega-3’s versus placebo.  The patients who took Omega-3’s showed slightly better heart function and fewer visits back to the hospital for heart failure problems.

It should be noted that all of the patients were already taking the standard heart failure medicines as well (including a combination of  beta-blockers, ACE-Inhibitors or ARB’s).  Assuming further studies continue to show benefits for Omega-3’s in heart failure, fish oil or other Omega-3 supplements can not be used as a substitute for the standard medicines.  Your cardiologist might recommend it in the future though in addition to the usual therapy.

See my post How To Eat More of the Good Fats Like Omega-3 for some foods which contain the highest amount of Omega-3’s.

September 2, 2010

New Alternative to Coumadin and Warfarin?

Posted in Heart disease tips, New Heart Studies tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 11:58 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

photo by Michal Marcol

Patients with atrial fibrillation know all too well the problems with Coumadin and warfarin.

Atrial fibrillation is a very common arrhythmia in which the top chambers of the heart beat quickly and erratically.  Since the pumping of the atria is abnormal during atrial fibrillation, a clot can form in the heart.  If the clot travels up to the brain this leads to a stroke.  For this reason, people with atrial fibrillation are at a higher risk of stroke and may need to take a strong blood thinner called Coumadin (generic name warfarin).

Coumadin and warfarin dosages are variable and need frequent monitoring.  One person may only need to take 5mg per day while another person might need 7.5mg per day.  Fingerstick checks are done every few days to every month for checking the level (called INR).  People who cannot or will not take Coumadin need to take at least an aspirin a day to lower the risk of stroke.  Sounds like a lot of work right?

A simpler drug may be available soon!  A new study out of Ontario has reviewed a new medicine called apixaban in terms of replacing Coumadin and warfarin.  When compared with aspirin only, apixaban reduced the risk of stroke and other clotting problems by 54%!  The dose is standard for everyone and apparently there is no need for fingerstick checks.  Let’s pray that apixaban makes it through the next trial so we can truly have a great new alternative to Coumadin!

June 28, 2010

If You’re Still Taking Folic Acid For Your Heart, You Can Stop Now!

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Heart disease tips, New Heart Studies tagged , , , , , , , , at 2:25 am by keepyourhearthealthy

When I first started learning the ropes in treating cardiac patients, some of my colleagues were still recommending that patients take Folic Acid supplements for heart health.   I never quite got into the routine myself because the popular supplement gradually grew out of favor with many cardiologists.  There were still some strong hold-outs for Folic Acid but a new study has pretty much squashed the old theory that it lowers heart attack risk.

A review of over 12,000 patients with a previous heart attack showed that taking Folic Acid did not change the frequency of repeat heart attacks.  The results were recently published in JAMA and a highly opinionated article was written about it in Newsweek (http://www.newsweek-interactive.com/2010/06/22/observe-and-report.html?from=rss).  Apparently the old school of thought was that elevated levels of homocysteine led to increased heart disease.  Since Folic Acid reduces homocysteine, it seemed logical that Folic Acid would prevent heart attacks.  Now that this theory has been disproven, heart attack survivors can save their money for the necessary heart pills like an aspirin, a statin, a beta-blocker and niacin.