Conference Coverage

Tools for preventing heart failure



Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease

Within 6 years after diagnosis of an MI, 22% of men and 46% of women will develop symptomatic heart failure. Intensive statin therapy gets a strong recommendation post MI in the guidelines, not only because in a meta-analysis of four major randomized trials it resulted in a further 64% reduction in the risk of coronary death or recurrent MI, compared with moderate statin therapy, but also because of the 27% relative risk reduction in new-onset HF. ACE inhibitors get a class IA recommendation for prevention of symptomatic HF in patients who are stage A with a history of atherosclerotic disease, diabetes, or hypertension. Angiotensin receptor blockers get a class IC recommendation.


Diabetes markedly increases the risk of developing HF: by two to four times overall and by four to eight times in younger diabetes patients. The two chronic diseases are highly comorbid, with roughly 45% of patients with HF also having diabetes. Moreover, diabetes in HF patients is associated with a substantially worse prognosis, even when standard HF therapies are applied.

Choices regarding glycemic management can markedly affect HF risk and outcomes. Randomized trials show that the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor agonists double the risk of HF. The glucagonlike peptide–1 receptor agonists are absolutely neutral with regard to HF outcomes. Similarly, the dipeptidyl peptidase–4 inhibitors have no impact on the risks of major adverse cardiovascular events or HF. Intensive glycemic control has no impact on the risk of new-onset HF. Insulin therapy, too, is neutral on this score.

“Depressingly, even lifestyle modification with weight loss, once you have type 2 diabetes, does not lower the risk,” Dr. Fonarow continued.

In contrast, the sodium-glucose transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors have impressive cardiovascular and renal protective benefits in patients with type 2 diabetes, as demonstrated in a meta-analysis of more than 34,000 participants in the randomized trials of empagliflozin (Jardiance) in EMPA-REG OUTCOME, canagliflozin (Invokana) in CANVAS/CANVAS-R, and dapagliflozin (Farxiga) in DECLARE-TIMI 58. The SGLT2 inhibitors collectively reduced the risk of HF hospitalization by 21% in participants with no baseline history of the disease and by 29% in those with a history of HF. Moreover, the risk of progression of renal disease was reduced by 45% (Lancet. 2019 Jan 5;393[10166]:31-9).

More recently, the landmark DAPA-HF trial established SGLT2 inhibitor therapy as part of standard-of-care, guideline-directed medical therapy for patients with HF with reduced ejection fraction regardless of whether they have comorbid type 2 diabetes (N Engl J Med. 2019 Nov 21;381[21]:1995-2008).

These are remarkable medications, generally very well tolerated, and it’s critical that cardiologists get on board in prescribing them, Dr. Fonarow emphasized. He alerted his colleagues to what he called an “incredibly helpful” review article that provides practical guidance for cardiologists in how to start using the SGLT2 inhibitors (JACC Heart Fail. 2019 Feb;7[2]:169-72).

“It’s pretty straightforward,” according to Dr. Fonarow. “If you’re comfortable enough in using ACE inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, and beta-blockers, I think you’ll find these medications fit similarly when you actually get experience in utilizing them.”

He reported serving as a consultant to 10 pharmaceutical or medical device companies.


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