Conference Coverage

Conference News Roundup—American Heart Association


Does Cholesterol Testing Reduce Risk of Recurrent Stroke?

When a patient has a heart attack or stroke, it is critical for his or her clinician to perform a follow-up cholesterol test, according to a study conducted at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City. This additional measure is significantly associated with reduced risk of having another serious cardiovascular episode.

Investigators found that patients who do not follow up with their doctor by getting a low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol test after a heart attack or stroke are significantly more likely to have a recurrence. They also found a significant and clinically meaningful difference in major adverse outcomes—including death, heart attack, stroke, and a vascular bypass or an angioplasty—based on whether or not a patient has a follow-up measurement of his or her LDL cholesterol.

“It is clear that anyone with a previous heart problem caused by clogged arteries should be taking a cholesterol-lowering medication,” said Kirk U. Knowlton, MD, Director of Cardiovascular Research at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute.

The study of more than 60,000 patients with known heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, or peripheral artery disease, including patients with stroke and heart attack, showed that the major adverse clinical event rate was lower in patients who took cholesterol-lowering statins and in those who did not take them if their LDL was measured.

“The large difference is surprising. The risk of dying after three years with no LDL follow-up is 21% versus 5.9% for patients who have an LDL follow-up,” said Dr. Knowlton.

Researchers reviewed Intermountain Healthcare’s enterprise data warehouse to identify all adults who came to one of Intermountain’s 22 hospitals for the first time with a heart attack or stroke. These data included patients with coronary artery disease, cerebrovascular disease, and peripheral arterial disease admitted between January 1, 1999, and December 31, 2013.

Investigators observed patients who survived and were followed for three years or more or until their death. Patient demographics, history, prescribed medications, and whether LDL was measured was analyzed.

The study compared 62,070 patients in the database who met the study criteria. The mean age was 66, and 65% of patients were male. Of those who met the criteria, 69.3% had coronary artery disease, 18.6% had cerebrovascular disease, and 12.1% had peripheral arterial disease when they came to the hospital with their first heart attack or stroke.

Researchers found that the risk of a patient having a secondary event or dying decreased in patients who had a follow-up LDL test before a subsequent adverse outcome or before the end of their follow-up.

Coffee Is Associated With Lower Risk of Heart Failure and Stroke

Drinking coffee may be associated with a decreased risk of heart failure or stroke, according to researchers.

Investigators used machine learning to analyze data from the long-running Framingham Heart Study, which includes information about what people eat and their cardiovascular health. They found that every additional cup of coffee consumed per week was associated with a 7% decreased risk of heart failure and an 8% reduced risk of stroke, compared with non-coffee drinkers.

The researchers further investigated the machine learning results using traditional analysis in two studies with similar sets of data: the Cardiovascular Heart Study and the Atherosclerosis Risk In Communities Study. The association between drinking coffee and a decreased risk of heart failure and stroke was observed consistently in all three studies.

Another potential risk factor identified by machine-learning analysis was red meat consumption. The association between red meat consumption and heart failure or stroke was less clear, however. Eating red meat was associated with decreased risk of heart failure and stroke in the Framingham Heart Study, but validating the finding in comparable studies is more challenging due to differences in the definitions of red meat between studies, said the researchers. Further investigation to better determine how red meat consumption affects risk for heart failure and stroke is ongoing.

The researchers also built a predictive model using known risk factors from the Framingham Risk Score such as blood pressure, age, and other patient characteristics associated with cardiovascular disease. “By including coffee in the model, the prediction accuracy increased by 4%. Machine learning may be a useful addition to the way we look at data and may help us to find new ways to lower the risk of heart failure and strokes,” said David Kao, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora.

Statins May Improve Stroke Outcome

Patients with a prior history of heart attack or stroke have better outcomes when cholesterol-lowering medications are used after they are discharged from the hospital, according to researchers.


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