Latest Treatment Breakthroughs in Cardiovascular Disease

Tips to reduce risk for cardiovascular disease and understand treatment options

A team of Scripps cardiovascular experts gathers in a hospital setting to treat heart patients.

by Dr. Dennis Goodman, Chief of Cardiology

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD), including heart disease and high blood pressure, is the number one cause of death among Americans. Although commonly associated with men, CVD is also the leading cause of death among women, killing nearly 500,000 females each year.

Technological advances, alternative forms of treatment and new high blood pressure guidelines are helping in the fight against CVD. New drugs are being developed to battle CVD and physicians are continuing to research new methods and approaches to heart surgery.

Reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease

High blood pressure (hypertension) affects about 50 million Americans, and can lead to the development of heart disease, including heart failure and stroke. In an effort to help people reduce their risk of developing high blood pressure, the federal government has released a new classification and guidelines.

The new classification, “prehypertension,” is a precursor to chronic high blood pressure. Patients diagnosed with prehypertension can change their lifestyle to reduce their chances of developing the condition. Eating healthy, exercising regularly and quitting smoking are great ways to lower risk.

The new federal guidelines also state that people over 50 with a systolic pressure (the top number in blood pressure reading) greater than 140 millimeters of mercury have a high risk of developing cardiovascular disease, regardless of their diastolic pressure (the bottom number).

In addition, the guidelines suggest most hypertension patients will require two or more antihypertensive medications to achieve their blood pressure goal.

Nutritional supplements and your heart

Over the past several years, researchers have been examining the effects of vitamins and supplements on the heart. In turn, consumers constantly question what herbs and vitamins are beneficial.

Omega-3 fatty acids have shown the greatest promise in reducing the risk of CVD. The American Heart Association endorses Omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in fish, soybeans, canola, walnut and flaxseed, and their oils.

Another possible solution for patients is the Heart Support Antioxidant Formula. This alternative multi-vitamin and herb combination will address the confusion patients have regarding which vitamins are most effective in preventing heart disease. The Formula, containing 21 specific nutrients specifically formulated to maximize cardiovascular health, is in clinical trials and may soon help people avoid and treat CVD.

It is important to note that vitamins and nutritional supplements may interact with traditional drug therapy and should be discussed with a physician before taking. It is also important to discuss all supplement use before surgery.

New treatments for cardiovascular disease

Although new treatments for CVD are developed every year, the creation of drug-coated stents is a big recent breakthrough to reduce restenosis (renarrowing of clogged vessels).

Physicians surgically insert stents in heart attack victims to prevent the reclosure of coronary arteries. Smooth muscle cells grow and clog the stent in about 25 percent of the patients, necessitating a repeat procedure. Drug-coated stents elute or remove drugs into the artery, which work to prevent the buildup of muscle cells, thus preventing the vessel from reclosing.

A few companies are still awaiting approval by the Food and Drug Administration on their drug-coated stents. However, one type of drug-coated stent is now available in the United States and others have been approved for use in Europe. There are also new medications and special pacemakers available to treat congestive heart failure and improve patients’ quality of life and long term survival.

This Scripps Health and Wellness information was provided by Dr. Dennis Goodman, chief of cardiology, Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla.