The American Heart Association’s (AHA) efforts to save lives go far beyond its activities to educate the public about heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular issues. Since its inception nearly a century ago, the AHA has focused much of its work on researching methods for treating and preventing heart disease, which is now the leading cause of death in the United States.
With the help of individual supporters, as well as corporate and nonprofit partners, the AHA has invested more than $4.1 billion in various research projects and initiatives. Today, the organization oversees one of the nation’s largest and most trusted research programs in the areas of heart and brain health. Read on for a closer look at recent news from the AHA research network.
Study Says Exercising after a Heart Attack May Lead to Better Health Outcomes
Although many heart attack survivors worry about the effects of exercise on their recovering heart, a new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association links physical activity to improved odds of survival. The study, which examined data on over 22,000 heart attack patients in Sweden, found that those who exercised within the first year of having a heart attack were much less likely to die over the next four years compared to those who remained physically inactive.
According to the study’s findings, while any physical activity was beneficial for patients recovering from a heart attack, those who continued with regular exercise demonstrated the greatest benefit. The AHA and the study’s authors hope that the findings will encourage more heart attack survivors to set aside their concerns about exercising during the immediate recovery period and beyond.
Unconventional Organ Donors Could Help Those Awaiting a Heart Transplant
In the United States, the number of people in need of a heart transplant has risen steadily over the last decade. Today, over 100,000 people are awaiting a transplant. However, a lack of available donor organs threatens their survival. Two separate studies that appeared in the AHA’s journal Circulation: Heart Failure and the Journal of the American Heart Association suggest that expanding the current donor pool may help to save lives.
Specifically, researchers leading the respective studies explored opportunities to expand the donor pool by accepting hearts from obese donors and those who had an active hepatitis C infection at the time of their death. The hearts and other organs from these donor groups are used infrequently in transplants, even though previous studies have shown that they have little negative impact on overall survival rates among transplant recipients. The studies’ authors cite the need for further research, while stating that these types of out-of-the-box strategies may be necessary to meet the growing need for donor hearts.
Heart Attack Rates Are Rising Among Young People
Although past research has shown an overall decline in the rate of heart attack in the United States, a recent study published in Circulation, the AHA journal, found that heart attacks among patients 35 to 54 years of age have actually increased in recent years. The surprising findings of the study, which were presented at the AHA’s 2018 Scientific Sessions, highlight the need for an increased focus on this age group.
In particular, the study underscores the often-overlooked problem of heart disease among young women, who showed a bigger jump in heart attacks than young men over the same period. The study’s findings pointed to high blood pressure, diabetes, weight issues, and a lack of proper medical intervention as some of the reasons for the recent increase in heart attacks among young people.
Researchers Receive Recognition during 2018 Scientific Sessions
Each year, the AHA honors the work of outstanding researchers as part of the activities at its annual Scientific Sessions. In 2018, the researchers who took home awards included Dr. David G. Harrison of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine for his research on hypertension. Dr. Harrison was awarded the AHA’s Basic Research Prize, which is given for outstanding achievement in basic cardiovascular disease science.
The other 2018 award winners were Dr. William Hiatt, Dr. Gary Gibbons, and Dr. Mary Cushman. They received awards for their work on peripheral artery disease, heart disease among minorities, and the causes of cardiovascular disease, respectively.
The AHA Provides $43 Million for Brain Health Initiative
In addition to recognizing outstanding researchers, the AHA announced the recipients of $43 million awarded as part of a research initiative into brain health and cognitive impairment. The AHA and The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group are leading the collaborative funding initiative with support from additional contributors such as the Oskar Fischer Project and the Henrietta B. and Frederick H. Bugher Foundation.
Through the initiative, Fred “Rusty” Gage of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies is receiving $19.2 million to lead an eight-year study examining the cells that drive the aging process. Two more honorees, Tony Wyss-Coray of Stanford and Mukesh Jain of University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, will each receive $9.6 million for multi-year cognitive health studies. The three researchers will all launch their projects in early 2019. Additional information about the research initiative and other AHA research news is available at http://www.heart.org.
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