Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the US, regardless of race. It has been the number one killer for the last 80 years. Despite the fact that it’s so deadly, we are finally seeing fewer people die each year from heart disease. What are we doing that is working?
Researchers are making big strides in developing new meds and aids to assist with saving lives. They have developed ways to use a 3D printer to create soft heart models for future use and finding ways to replace defective valves without surgery. There are new medicines and devices that can detect bad cholesterol and detect heart failure without a doctor visit.
Researchers have also developed Entresto, which the FDA fast-tracked the approval in order to get in doctors and patients hand as fast as possible. A combination of sacubitril and valsartan, this is a drug that can tighten the blood vessels and blocks heart-damaging enzymes. This drug alone reduces hospitalization and death from heart failure by 20%. The most common side effect with this drug is low blood pressure, reduced kidney function, and higher potassium levels in the blood.
Traditionally, doctors have tried keeping their older patients systolic blood pressures under 140. As we have learned, that can still be too high for some patients. By lowering the number to under 120, we see a 25% drop in risk of death from high blood pressure in patients 50 years old and older. This is a significant decrease but one that should be tailored to the patient, as it’s not for everyone.
Diabetes patients also tend to develop cardiovascular disease, and when they do, it tends to be worse than for nondiabetic patients. Fortunately, there is a new drug called EMPA-REG (empagliflozin) that helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels and saving lives from cardiac arrest or stroke by one-third of diabetic patients. As an added benefit, it also lowers blood pressure and body weight.
Conventional pacemakers have been surgically implanted, and feature wires that attach to the heart. Unfortunately, this could lead to infection or wires becoming detached. Developers have created smaller pacemakers, about the size of the tip of your pinky finger, that can be inserted into the heart with a catheter. There is also a cosmetic benefit, as the pacemaker doesn’t create a bulge in the chest because of its small size. This device is currently available in Europe and is in clinical trials here in the US.
Along with this, even more is taking place to help combat the effects of heart disease. We can’t wait to see what else will develop in the years to come!
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