Advances in Heart Disease Treatment

Medical research has made dramatic progress in heart disease prevention and treatment. According to the American Heart Association, deaths in the U.S. due to heart disease have declined more than 27% and deaths due to stroke more than 40% in the last decade.

Since the 1960s, clinical studies have evaluated and introduced beta blockers to lower blood pressure and treat angina. The next advances came in the 1970s and 1980s with the development of ACE inhibitors to lower blood pressure, treat heart failure, and extend life for patients who had had a heart attack.

A huge leap in cardiovascular therapy came with the introduction of statins in the 1990s. Early statins, including lovastatin (Mevacor) and simvastatin (Zocor), were introduced to lower cholesterol. In a milestone five-year study of more than 4,000 patients, simvastatin reduced cholesterol levels by 35%, and reduced death from heart disease by 42%. Statins are now used widely in patients at risk for developing heart disease as well as patients with diagnosed heart disease.

Since 2000, the FDA has approved 43 new medicines for cardiovascular diseases. The most recent, are ticagrelor (Brilinta) to reduce thrombotic (blood clot) events in patients with acute coronary syndrome, azilsartan (Edarbi) to treat hypertension, and rivaroxaban (Xarelto) to prevent deep vein thrombosis during joint replacement surgery. In 2012, the FDA approved icosapent ethyl (Vascepa) to treat hypertriglyceridemia, a condition in which people have very high levels of triglycerides (fatty acids) or cholesterol.

Great advances have also come from innovations in surgery and medical devices. Surgical advances include bypass surgery, angioplasty, and heart transplantation. Medical devices, including pace makers, stents, and mechanical hearts, have changed the way people live with heart disease. 

References:
American Heart Association, Dec 2010. Top research highlighted in fight against heart disease and stroke
The Statin Drugs, R.N. Fogoros, 2011

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