The American Heart Association (AHA) has been behind some of the most important research breakthroughs related to heart disease and stroke care. Funding from the AHA has helped researchers to develop a better understanding of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, as well as to advance treatments that have improved and extended lives.
In addition to providing research funding, the AHA reports on the latest significant research advancements through press releases and other publications. One of these is its year-end list of leading research accomplishments, which it has compiled annually since 1996. This blog post offers a look at several discoveries in heart and stroke science highlighted by the association in 2019.
Improvement in Blood Pressure Control
It is well established that controlling one’s blood pressure is a key factor in preventing heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular conditions. Two research studies published in 2019 provided new insights on improving blood pressure control and underscored the importance of doing so.
A study published in the European Heart Journal in October 2019 suggested that bedtime might be the best time to take prescribed blood-pressure medication. According to the clinical trial, which involved over 9,000 patients with hypertension, taking all prescribed hypertension medications before bed rather than the next morning can improve ambulatory blood pressure (ABP) control and reduce one’s risk of a cardiovascular event by 45 percent.
Another study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that controlling blood-pressure might offer benefits that extend beyond cardiovascular health. Based on the results of a randomized clinical trial of individuals age 50 and over with high blood pressure, lowering systolic blood pressure to under 120 millimeters of mercury decreased the chances of mild cognitive impairment as compared to lowering it to under 140.
Insights from Gene Studies
Developing novel treatments for cardiovascular disease and prevention requires that researchers increase their understanding of the underlying factors contributing to the problem. In some cases, this can include looking at a person’s genetic makeup. Many researchers are examining the human genome, and their work is leading to new insights on heart disease and heart-related issues.
In 2019, researchers released the results of a study that shed light on genomic regions potentially linked to venous thromboembolism (VTE), a blood-clotting condition that affects between 300,000 and 600,000 Americans each year. The analysis, published in Nature Genetics, examined the DNA of over 650,000 people and led to the discovery of 22 new genomic regions in the human body that might overlap with VTE. Moreover, the journal Nature Medicine published the results of a study that identified 18 new regions of the human genome connected to peripheral artery disease (PAD).
Along with gene studies related to VTE and PAD, new gene research into pulmonary hypertension also emerged in 2019. For instance, the results of a study published in the AHA journal Circulation explained how the protein coding gene BOLA3 (BolA Family Member 3), plays a critical role in this type of hypertension. With this genetic knowledge, researchers can explore different avenues for treating the disease.
Evidence Reiterates the Importance of Physical Activity
The role that physical activity plays in keeping one’s heart healthy has been well understood for a long time. Recent research focusing on older women, however, has provided new insights into the importance of exercise for those in their senior years.
Two studies that appeared in Circulation and JAMA Network Open, respectively, examined groups of women averaging 79 years old who had no known history of stroke or myocardial infarction. In the first study, researchers found that reducing sedentary activity by as little as one hour a day could lower the risk of heart disease by 26 percent. The second study suggested that daily physical activity, even light activities such as walking and gardening, can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease among older women.
Research Studies Drive Care Strategies
In addition to increasing the scientific understanding of heart disease and stroke, research drives shifts in care by furthering opportunities for new therapies and treatments. The AHA’s list highlighted the results of several such investigations published in 2019.
A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that adults taking statins for elevated triglyceride levels might reduce their risk of stroke or another heart-related event by up to 25 percent by adding a fish oil derivative to their therapy regimen. Following this data, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new prescription form of the same fish oil derivative for treating elevated triglyceride levels. The medication is prescribed under the name Vascepa.
The New England Journal of Medicine also published studies focused on ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI) heart attacks and ischemic stroke. The study on heart attacks concluded that percutaneous coronary intervention, an artery-clearing procedure used for STEMI heart attacks and epicardial coronary artery obstructions, might have better long-term effects if performed to open and clear both the artery that caused the attack and other partially clogged ones.
In the study examining ischemic stroke, researchers determined that the clot-busting drug alteplase might be beneficial for some patients up to nine hours following the onset of symptoms. Previously, physicians generally believed that the drug needed to be administered within a four-and-a-half-hour window.
More information about these and other research advancements from 2019 can be found at http://www.heart.org.
Disclaimer: This website contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. This information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy or validity of any statements or information provided on this website. Do not rely on this information as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another professional health-care provider. You should seek immediate medical attention if you think you are suffering from a medical condition. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.