Category: Cardiovascular Disease

Endovascular Catheter Safely Treats Acute Pulmonary Embolism

Credit: Scientific Animations CC4.0

The BASHIR™ Endovascular Catheter (THROMBOLEX, Inc.), recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is paving the way to more effective and safe treatment for acute pulmonary embolism. Already demonstrated to be effective for reducing blockages in lung arteries, a new study in JACC: Advances shows that the BASHIR™ catheter also reduces blockages in the smaller segmental pulmonary artery branches. These branches are ultimately responsible for oxygenating the blood in the lungs.

The new study from Temple University which was part of the National Institutes of Health-sponsored multicentre RESCUE clinical trial, further showed a correlation between decreased numbers of blockages in the small lung arteries and functional recovery of the right ventricle of the heart, which pumps blood into the main pulmonary artery of the lungs.

Compared to other devices, the BASHIR™ catheter also had significantly lower bleeding rates, a key advance in acute pulmonary embolism treatment.

“Blockages in these smaller, distal pulmonary arteries have never previously been explored in patients treated for acute pulmonary embolism,” explained Riyaz Bashir, MD, FACC, Professor of Medicine, Director of Vascular and Endovascular Medicine in the Section of Cardiology, Department of Medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine and Temple University Hospital, co-inventor of the BASHIR™ Endovascular Catheter, and first author on the new report.

The BASHIR™ catheter is a small tube-like device that consists of a helical basket with six mini-infusion catheters at its farthest end.

When the infusion basket is expanded within a clot in a large blood vessel, new channels open, enabling blood to flow through the clot. The blood carries the body’s clot-dissolving chemicals into the channels, accelerating clot breakdown.

Researchers at THROMBOLEX™ Inc. were involved in developing and commercialising this platform technology.

The occlusion of small lung arteries is the major reason for the reduction in blood flow in patients with acute pulmonary embolism.

“The more occlusions a patient has, the lower their survival,” Dr Bashir said.

“Among the treatment goals is relieving obstructions in both large and small arteries.”

Patients who survive may, over more extended periods, be at high risk of developing chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH), which is a life-threatening condition caused by increased blood pressure in the lungs.

In the new study, Dr Bashir and colleagues observed reductions in occlusions in segmental and proximal branches of the pulmonary artery 48 hours following treatment with the BASHIR™ catheter.

The blockages decreased even in those arteries that were distant from where the infusion basket was located, enabling improved blood flow and healing of the right ventricle.

“We suspect that the improvements in blood flow are due to both the expansion of the basket and the flow of the body’s clot dissolving molecules into the clot, which cause the blockage to shrink,” Dr. Bashir said.

“As the volume of blood flow improved, right ventricular function also improved, which could translate to better survival.”

In future work, Dr Bashir and colleagues plan to investigate mechanisms behind the observed reductions in arterial blockage.

Further trials are also needed to understand better the impact of treatment with the BASHIR™ catheter on patient survival and incidence of CTEPH.

Source: Temple University Health System

The South African Heart Association Prioritises Access to Cardiovascular Medicines and Devices

On 29 October, during its annual scientific meeting at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, the South African Heart Association (SA Heart®) met with members of the National Department of Health (NDoH), Council for Medical Schemes (CMS), South African Medical Association, medical aid industry, pharmaceutical and medical device industry, as well as the Global Heart Hub – which supports patient advocacy for cardiovascular disease – with the intention to develop an advocacy forum to create a more empowered and engaged community of patients living with cardiovascular disease.

During the symposium, SA Heart® emphasised the cardiac profession’s difficulty in obtaining approval and full reimbursement for the evidence-based treatments, shown to improve patient outcomes. The rules and regulations surrounding the availability of treatments, variously determined by the NDoH, the CMS and funders, currently inhibit access to effective cardiovascular disease management. SA Heart®, an affiliate member of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), adopts the ESC’s guidelines as its own, supplemented by consensus statements that take prevailing local circumstances into account. Instead of following the up-to-date recommendations of the ESC, both the NDoH and various private sector funders rather give preference to the CMS algorithms that are years out of date. These anachronisms determine standards of care, despite ongoing advances in evidence-based medicine.

Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMB’s) are a set of defined benefits to ensure that all medical scheme members have continuous access to defined minimum health services, regardless of the benefit option they select. PMB’s are limited in their reach. Private sector funders often retreat behind rules and regulations within the state sector, as to the type and level of treatment that they approve. Each funder independently determines what will be funded and at what level. Based upon their unique Health Technology Assessments, each funder then decides what treatment is approved or declined. It is unfair to restrict treatment to what is available only in the state sector. Novel therapies could be more widely available if there were more constructive agreements between state and industry. The CMS is currently reviewing the PMB package and defining patient entitlement.

SA Heart® pointed out that physicians are at the interface between the patient and the funder. Frequently, the patient misunderstands their own relationship with their medical aid and may deem the practitioner responsible for limitations imposed on his/her treatment. The administrative burden on clinicians is often intolerable, requiring repeat motivations, chronic medication forms, PMB applications and telephone calls to funders.

During the symposium pertinent questions were raised around funder and regulator reimbursement decisions, as well as the obscure mechanisms governing the pricing of medicines and devices. SA Heart® also raised concerns about the future of both the public and private healthcare system. A balance between the two sectors is a delicate one, requiring careful policy decisions to ensure that both systems will contribute effectively to the overall health of our country. Debates often focus around issues of equity and quality of service. The idea of centralizing decisions and distribution in the pharmaceutical and medical device sectors can be seen as an effort to ensure equitable access to essential medicines and equipment. However, this approach could negatively impact the ability to cater for South Africa’s diverse and specific needs – with more bureaucracy and inefficiency.

The meeting was called to determine interest amongst the various parties in establishing a forum to find solutions to these problems, and to harmonise the regulations around access to both medications and devices. The panellists were unanimous in their agreement that the current rules, regulations and disparities between the public and private sectors need to be reworked and there was consensus that a forum should be created to continue these discussions and arrive at effective, durable solutions. SA Heart® committed to driving this process, and will regularly engage all stakeholders in future meetings, with the ultimate goal of improving patient access to innovative cardiovascular treatments.

New Compound Restores Lost Brain Function in Mice after Stroke

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An international study published recently in the journal Brain has reported promising results in restoring function lost in mice and rat models of stroke. Researchers were able to restore lost brain function using small molecules that in the future could potentially be developed into a stroke recovery therapy.

“Communication between nerve cells in large parts of the brain changes after a stroke and we show that it can be partially restored with the treatment,” says Tadeusz Wieloch, senior professor of neurobiology at Lund University in Sweden.

“Concomitantly, the rodents regain lost somatosensory functions, something that around 60 per cent of all stroke patients experience today. The most remarkable result is that the treatment began several days after a stroke,” Wieloch continues.

In an ischaemic stroke, lack of blood flow to affected parts of the brain lead to loss of function such as paralysis, sensorimotor impairment and vision and speech difficulties, but also to pain and depression.

There are currently no approved drugs that improve or restore the functions after a stroke, apart from clot-dissolving treatment in the acute phase (within 4.5 hours of the stroke). Some spontaneous improvements occur, but many stroke patients suffer chronic loss of function.

For example, about 60% of stroke sufferers, experience lost somatosensory functions such as touch and position sense.

The new study shows that rats that were treated with a class of substances that inhibit the metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR5), a receptor that regulates communication in the brain’s nerve cell network.

“Rodents treated with the GluR5 inhibitor regained their somatosensory functions,” says Tadeusz Wieloch, who led the study.

Two days after the stroke, ie when the damage had developed and function impairment was most prominent, the researchers started treating the rodents that exhibited the greatest impaired function.

“A temporary treatment effect was seen after just 30 minutes, but treatment for several weeks is needed to achieve a permanent recovery effect. Some function improvement was observed even when the treatment started 10 days after a stroke,” says Tadeusz Wieloch.

Importantly, sensorimotor functions improved, even though the extent of the brain damage was not diminished.

This, explains Tadeusz Wieloch, is due to the intricate network of nerve cells in the brain, known as the connectome – the way brain areas are inter connected and communicate form the basis for various brain functions.

“Impaired function after a stroke is due to cell loss, but also because of reduced activity in large parts of the connectome in the undamaged brain. The receptor mGluR5 is apparently an important factor in the reduced activity in the connectome, which is prevented by the inhibitor which therefore restores the lost brain function,” says Tadeusz Wieloch.

The results also showed that sensorimotor function was further improved if treatment with the mGluR5 inhibitor is combined with somatosensory training by housing several rodents in cages enriched with toys, chains, grids, and plastic tubes.

The researchers hope that in the future their results could lead to a clinical treatment that could be initiated a few days after an ischaemic stroke.

“Combined with rehabilitation training, it could eventually be a new promising treatment. However, more studies are needed. The study was conducted on mice and rats, and of course needs to be repeated in humans. This should be possible since several mGluR5 inhibitors have been studied in humans for the treatment of neurological diseases other than stroke, and shown to be tolerated by humans,” says Tadeusz Wieloch.

Source: Lund University

No-aspirin Regimen Benefits Heart Failure Patients with LVADs

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A recent clinical trial published in JAMA found that excluding aspirin for advanced heart failure (HF) patients with a ventricular assist device saw a reduction in bleeding events while maintaining their survival rates.

The ARIES-HM3 Randomised Clinical Trial assessed the safety and efficacy of excluding aspirin from the antithrombotic regimen in patients with advanced HF who have undergone implantation of a fully magnetically levitated left ventricular assist device (LVAD).

“We can now safely say that not giving aspirin is not only safe from a thromboembolic risk profile but results in improved adverse event rate by a significant reduction in non-surgical bleeding which is a well-known complication related to LVAD therapy,” said Mirnela Byku, MD, P.D, MBA, co-author of the study and director of the UNC Durable Mechanical Circulatory Device Program at the UNC School of Medicine.

“Improving not only longevity but also reducing morbidity and improving quality of life is a big focus in the field of MCS.”

Until this study, there had been no consensus in the field about use of or dose of aspirin in the LVAD population.

The international clinical trial followed a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled design and involved 628 patients across 51 centres in 9 countries.

The patients were divided into two groups: one receiving aspirin (100mg/d) and the other receiving a placebo in addition to vitamin K antagonist (VKA) therapy.

A focus was to determine if the likelihood a patient experiences major nonsurgical haemocompatibility-related adverse events (such as stroke, pump thrombosis, major bleeding, or arterial peripheral thromboembolism) within 12 months differed between the two groups.

The results showed that not giving aspirin to patients with advanced HF, treated with a fully magnetically levitated LVAD who are receiving VKAs, did not make their survival worse. Furthermore, aspirin avoidance was associated with a significant reduction (34%) in major nonsurgical bleeding events.

Source: University of North Carolina Health Care

Alcohol Metabolites Play a Complex Role in Cardiovascular Harms and Benefits

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Although past research has indicated that moderate alcohol consumption can reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, more recent studies suggest that moderate levels of drinking may be hazardous to heart health. A new analysis now sheds new insight on this complex relationship between alcohol consumption and the progression of CVD, showing that a few particular alcohol metabolites strongly influence its protective effects.

Published in the journal BMC Medicine, the study observed a total of 60 alcohol consumption-related metabolites, identifying seven circulating metabolites that link long-term moderate alcohol consumption with an increased risk of CVD, and three circulating metabolites that link this same drinking pattern with a lower risk of CVD.

The findings from the study led by Boston University School of Public Health and Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University (Friedman School) detail the molecular pathway of long-term alcohol consumption and show that further research on these metabolites is needed for targeted prevention and treatment of alcohol-related CVD.

“The study findings demonstrate that alcohol consumption may trigger changes of our metabolomic profiles, potentially yielding both beneficial and harmful outcomes,” says Dr Chunyu Liu, assistant professor of biostatistics at BUSPH and co-corresponding/co-senior author of the study along with Dr.Jiantao Ma, assistant professor in the Division of Nutrition Epidemiology and Data Science at the Friedman School.

“However, rather than definitively settling that debate, this study underscores the intricate effects of alcohol consumption on cardiovascular health and generates a useful hypothesis for future investigations,” Dr Liu says.

The researchers analysed blood samples to measure the association between the cumulative average consumption of beer, wine, and liquor and 211 metabolites among Framingham Heart Study Offspring Study participants, who are the children of participants in the long-running Boston University-based Framingham Heart Study, over 20 years.

Of the 2428 participants, 636 developed CVD over the study period. Among the 60 drinking-related metabolites, 13 metabolites had a stronger association with alcohol consumption in women than in men, perhaps due to higher blood alcohol levels from women’s generally smaller body size versus the same amount of alcohol.

Consuming different types of alcohol was also linked to different metabolomic responses, with beer consumption generating a slightly weaker association overall than wine and liquor.

In roughly two-thirds of the 60 metabolites, higher plasma levels were detected in participants who consumed greater amounts of alcohol. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), were among the metabolites not associated with alcohol consumption.

The researchers then calculated two alcohol consumption-associated metabolite scores, which had opposite associations with the development of CVD.

“While our study presents intriguing findings, validation through state-of-the-art methods and large and diverse study populations is crucial,” Dr Ma says.

“To enhance reliability, we aim to conduct larger-scale research involving a more diverse racial and ethnic background, as the current study participants are all white. In addition, we will expand our study to integrate with other molecular markers such as genetic information to illustrate the complex relationships between alcohol consumption, metabolite features, and cardiovascular risk.”

Source: Boston University School of Public Health

Monitoring for Foetal Heart Condition in Pregnant Women with Autoimmune Antibodies

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Some individuals with anti-Ro/SSA antibodies (anti–Sjögren’s-syndrome–related antigen A autoantibodies, also called anti-Ro antibodies) have autoimmune diseases such as lupus or Sjögren’s syndrome, but many have no symptoms. A clinical trial published in Arthritis & Rheumatology found that high levels of these antibodies in pregnant women are associated with foetal atrioventricular block (AVB), which occurs when inflammation and subsequent scarring prevent electric signals from the heart’s atria from reaching the ventricles. The disease is associated with life-long pacing and can be fatal.

In the trial, called Surveillance To Prevent AV Block Likely to Occur Quickly (STOP BLOQ), the incidence of AVB increased with higher levels of anti-Ro/SSA antibodies, reaching 7.7% for those in the top quartile, which increased to 27.3% in those with a previous child who had AVB, although participant numbers in that category were small.  Antibody titres did not change over time. The trial also revealed that home-based foetal heart rate monitoring reliably detected conduction abnormalities, which may reduce the need for serial echocardiograms.

“Examining the levels of anti-Ro/SSA antibodies is an important advance since for women with low titres, monitoring is probably not necessary and for those with high titres the increased risk supports surveillance,” said corresponding author Jill Buyon, MD, of NYU Langone Health. She added that this study also indicated that titres of antibodies do not change and that additional factors besides antibodies contribute to risk.

“That home monitoring can rapidly and accurately identify early foetal conduction disease is a major step forward that may significantly decrease the need for echocardiograms and hopefully facilitate reversibility,” added senior author and research professor Bettina Cuneo MD, of the University of Arizona-Tucson College of Medicine.

Source: Wiley

Semaglutide Cuts CVD Events by 20% in People with Obesity or Overweight but not Diabetes

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In a large, international clinical trial, people with obesity or overweight but not diabetes taking semaglutide for more than three years had a 20% lower risk of cardiovascular disease outcomes and lost an average of 9.4% of their body weight.

Semaglutide, a GLP-1 medication primarily prescribed for people with Type 2 diabetes, is also FDA-approved for weight loss in people with obesity.

These results were shared in a late-breaking science presentation at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2023 and the full manuscript was also published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

“This news is very encouraging for people with overweight or obesity because no treatment specifically directed at the management of obesity and overweight in people without Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes has been tested in a randomised trial and been shown to influence cardiovascular outcomes,” said lead study author A. Michael Lincoff, MD.

While prior research has confirmed the benefits of semaglutide in managing blood sugar, decreasing cardiovascular disease events and reducing weight in people with Type 2 diabetes, this study specifically investigated the potential impact of semaglutide on cardiovascular disease in people with overweight or obesity and cardiovascular disease who did not have either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

In this randomised, controlled, double-blind trial, participants were assigned to take either 2.4mg of semaglutide (the FDA-approved semaglutide dose for weight management) or a placebo once a week, which is higher than the FDA-approved semaglutide dose limit for Type 2 diabetes of 2.0mg/week. Each person in the study used a ‘pen’ to inject the medicine or placebo into a skin fold in their stomach, thigh or upper arm each week on the same day, and the dose started at 0.24mg and gradually increased every four weeks up to 2.4mg, and mean follow-up for all participants was 40 months.

In addition to taking either semaglutide or placebo for the trial, all participants also received standard of care treatment for cardiovascular disease, such as cholesterol modifying medications, antiplatelet therapies, beta blockers or other treatments. The authors note that heart disease diagnoses varied among the participants, therefore, treatment was adjusted to meet each individual’s diagnosis and needs, as well as the treatment guidelines in their country of residence.

The study, which ran from October 2018 through June 2023, indicated the following:

  • There was a 20% reduction in the risk of heart attacks, strokes or death due to cardiovascular disease in the participants who took semaglutide, compared to the participants in the placebo group.
  • In the semaglutide group, the participants’ body weight was reduced, on average, by 9.4% compared to a reduction of 0.9% among the adults in the placebo group.
  • There were no new safety concerns found in the study, which researchers note is encouraging since the SELECT trial is the largest and longest (4.5 years) trial of semaglutide in adults without Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.
  • The number of serious adverse events was lower in the semaglutide group. Previous studies of medications of the GLP-1 receptor agonist class have shown an association with gallbladder disorders, and in SELECT, there was a slightly higher rate of gallbladder disorders in the semaglutide vs placebo group (2.8% vs 2.3%, respectively).
  • Semaglutide was stopped more frequently than placebo for gastrointestinal intolerance, a known side effect of this class of medications; however, there was no higher rate of serious gastrointestinal events.
  • The researchers noted that this medication did not lead to an increased rate of pancreatitis, which has been a concern with prior medications of this type.
  • Of note, other weight-loss medications that are not GLP-1 receptor agonists have been associated with increased risks of psychiatric disorders or cancer; these risks were not elevated with semaglutide in the SELECT trial.

“It’s been estimated that within about ten years, over half of the world’s population will have overweight or obesity,” said Dr Lincoff. “And while GLP-1 medications are frequently prescribed for patients with vascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, there is a significant number of people who do not have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes but do have vascular disease and overweight or obesity for whom these medications are often not available due to access to care issues, insurance coverage or other factors. This population may now potentially benefit from semaglutide, and importantly, our results indicate the magnitude of cardiovascular risk reduction with semaglutide among people without Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes is the same as what we have seen in people with Type 2 diabetes. Our findings expand the opportunity to treat patients who have overweight or obesity and existing heart disease without Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, and we have a chance to significantly reduce their risk of a secondary cardiovascular event including death.”

Among the study limitations were including adults with prior cardiovascular disease, thereby not investigating primary prevention of cardiovascular disease (people with no history of a heart attack, stroke and/or peripheral artery disease). In addition, 28% of the study participants were female, which is not proportionate to the number of women with cardiovascular disease and overweight or obesity in the general population.

Additional analyses will include identifying the mediators of the cardiovascular benefit to determine to what extent the results were driven by reduction of metabolically unhealthy body fat, positive impacts on inflammation or blood sugar, direct effects of the medication itself on plaque build-up in the arteries, or a combination of one or more variables.

Source: American Heart Association

In Sweden, Drone-delivered Defibrillators Fly to the Rescue

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Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have evaluated dispatching drones equipped with automated external defibrillators (AED) to patients with suspected cardiac arrest. In more than half of the cases, the drones were ahead of the ambulance by an average of three minutes. The drone-delivered defibrillator was used in a majority of the cases which proved to be cardiac arrests. The results have been published in The Lancet Digital Health.   

“The use of an AED is the single most important factor in saving lives. We have been deploying drones equipped with AED since the summer of 2020 and show in this follow-up study that drones can arrive at the scene before an ambulance by several minutes. This lead time has meant that the AED could be used by people at the scene in several cases,” says Andreas Claesson, Associate Professor at the Center for Cardiac Arrest Research at the Department of Clinical Research and Education, Södersjukhuset, Karolinska Institutet, and principal investigator of the study.   

Every year, around 6000 people in Sweden suffer a sudden cardiac arrest, but only a tenth of those affected survive. Although an early shock with a AED can dramatically increase the chance of survival and there are tens of thousands of AED in the community, they are not available in people’s homes where most cardiac arrests occur.   

Since 2020, in an effort to cut the time to defibrillation with an AED, Karolinska Institutet, together with Region Västra Götaland, SOS Alarm and the drone operator Everdrone, have tested the possibility of dispatched an AED-carrying drone at the same time as an ambulance is alerted. The project covered an area of approximately 200 000 people in western Sweden. An initial study conducted in the summer of 2020 in Gothenburg and Kungälv showed that the idea was feasible and safe.    

“This more comprehensive and follow-up study now shows in a larger material that the methodology works throughout the year, summer and winter, in daylight and darkness. Drones can be alerted, arrive, deliver AED, and people on site have time to use the AED before the ambulance arrives,” says Sofia Schierbeck, PhD student at the same department and first author of the study.   

In the study, drones delivered a AED in 55 cases of suspected cardiac arrest. In 37 of these cases, the delivery took place before an ambulance, corresponding to 67%, with a median lead of 3 minutes and 14 seconds. In the 18 cases of actual cardiac arrest, the caller managed to use the AED in six cases, representing 33%. A shock was recommended by the device in two cases and in one case the patient survived.   

“Our study now shows once and for all that it is possible to deliver AED with drones and that this can be done several minutes before the arrival of the ambulance in connection with acute cardiac arrest,” says Andreas Claesson. “This time saving meant that the healthcare emergency centre could instruct the person who called the ambulance to retrieve and use the AED in several cases before the ambulance arrived.”  

The research was mainly funded by the Swedish Heart-Lung Foundation.

Source: Karolinska Institutet

Collaboration Key to Address SA’s Fatal, Diabetes-linked Cardiovascular Disease Burden

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Only concerted multi-disciplinary collaboration and research will stem the tide of diabetes and diabetes-linked cardiovascular disease (CVD), the latter currently the leading cause of death locally and worldwide, claiming 17.9 million lives annually1.

This was the consensus among some of the world’s leading cardiologists and researchers gathered at the SA Heart Association’s annual congress aptly themed: ‘The Cardiac Collaboration,’ which took place at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg from 26-29 October this year.

Globally, CVD takes more lives than TB, HIV and malaria combined, while 215 South Africans are killed by CVD every day – with 80% of CVD and strokes being preventable.1,2 The prevalence of diabetes has also increased in South Africa, from 4.5% in 2010 to 12.7% in 2019. Of the 4.58 million people aged 20-79 years who were estimated to have diabetes in 2019, 52.4% were undiagnosed.3

With diabetes being a key driver of CVD – especially in Africa (with limited access to novel drugs and the prevalence of sugar-rich, poverty-driven lifestyles), the mutual consensus at this year’s congress was that collaboration is key.

Dr Zaheer Bayat, Chairperson of the Society for Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes of South Africa (SEMDSA), told delegates that endocrinologists and cardiologists would have to work together to improve outcomes for diabetic patients, 30% of whom suffered cardiovascular events. He warned that a 134% increase of people living with diabetes was predicted over the next two decades, translating into a dramatic surge in chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, blindness, and amputations.

Dr Bayat said he intends appealing for mass diabetes screening to find the 52% of people whom researchers estimate are undiagnosed. Ideally, this should be followed by access to cheaply acquired, effective new glucose-lowering drugs.

“The reality is that this country cannot afford all the new treatments for everyone – not private funders, not government. So, drugs are not really a solution – the best solution is to change lifestyle and prevent disease in the first place,” said Dr Bayat.

“We’re here to fight for our patients, not our pockets. Can we afford to have 52% of our patients not knowing they’re diabetic? People who should be contributing to our economy are living with diabetes and eventually dying,” he asserted.

Dr Bayat also said that globally, First World countries such as the USA and Sweden are reducing myocardial infarctions, strokes, and amputations, because they’re doing all the right things together. This included adopting a healthy lifestyle, effective management of sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol and smoking cessation.

“However, here in South Africa with private healthcare representing 15% of healthcare delivery but consuming 50% of the spend and the public sector representing 85% of the population and consuming the other half – we’re not doing nearly as well. With only 200 cardiologists in the country (one per 190 000 population), and even less nephrologists, we need to join together and change the trajectory of diabetes. We must work together to reduce morbidity and mortality,” said Dr Bayat.

According to the SA Heart Association, this graphically illustrates the importance of a multi-disciplinary approach, the very reason why the conference was called ‘The Cardiac Collaboration.’

The SA Heart Association has already begun forging formal ties with other academic societies and next year, it hopes to join and host joint sessions with collaborative meetings to connect a multidisciplinary team in order to achieve a well-rounded balance of care.


  3. International Diabetes Federation. IDF Diabetes Atlas.10th ed. International Diabetes Federation; Brussels, Belgium: 2021. [Google Scholar] (primary).,%25%20were%20undiagnosed%20%5B5%5D. (secondary).

Intensive BP Target of Under 120mmHg Yields even Better Outcomes

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An intensive three-year intervention to lower systolic blood pressure (BP) to less than 120mmHg was more effective at preventing death, heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular events in adults at high risk for cardiovascular disease, compared to the standard treatment target of under 140mmHg, according to late-breaking science presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2023.

“Our study provides evidence to support targeting systolic blood pressure to less than 120mmHg in hypertensive patients with high cardiovascular risk and normal or mild-reduced kidney function, regardless of their diabetes status (Type 1, Type 2 or none) or history of stroke,” said lead study author Jing Li, MD, PhD, director of the department of preventive medicine at the National Center for Cardiovascular Diseases in Beijing, China.

The researchers conducted a multi-centre, randomised controlled trial to evaluate the effects of an intensive blood pressure-lowering strategy on the incidence of major cardiovascular events, including heart attack, stroke, cardiovascular death, revascularisation, or hospitalisation or emergency room visit for heart failure, in participants with increased cardiovascular risk.

Participants in the ESPRIT trial were randomised to receive intensive antihypertensive treatment with a systolic BP target of less than 120mmHg (using higher doses and multiple classes of drugs) or standard treatment, with a target measurement of under 140mmHg over a three-year period. Safety was assessed between treatment groups by comparing serious adverse events among participants.

The researchers found that after two years, participants in the intensive treatment group had significantly better outcomes than those receiving standard care. Compared with the standard treatment, the intensive treatment strategy prevented:

  • 12% of heart attacks, stroke, revascularisation procedures, death from cardiovascular causes and hospitalisation or emergency room visit for heart failure;
  • 39% of deaths from cardiovascular causes; and
  • 21% of deaths from any cause.
  • There was no significant difference in serious adverse events of hypotension, electrolyte abnormality, fall resulting in an injury, acute kidney injury or renal failure.

Syncope, or fainting, was one of the serious adverse events used to evaluate safety. Syncope occurred at a rate of 0.4% per year in the intensive group and 0.1% in the standard group. This means that for every 1000 patients receiving the intensive treatment for 3 years, 3 patients would experience a serious adverse event of syncope, while 14 major vascular events and 8 deaths would be further prevented, Li noted.

“These results provide evidence that intensive hypertension treatment focused on achieving systolic blood pressure of less than 120mmHg is beneficial and safe for individuals with high blood pressure and increased cardiovascular risk factors,” Li said. “Implementing this intensive treatment strategy for high-risk adults has the potential to save more lives and reduce the public health burden of heart disease worldwide.”

Study details and background:

  • The ESPRIT trial included 11,255 adults in China. Participants had a baseline systolic blood pressure measurement of 130–180mmHg and either established cardiovascular disease or at least two major risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
  • Participants were an average age of 64.6 years; 41.3% women and 58.7% men.
  • Approximately 27% of the study participants had a history of stroke; approximately 29% had previous coronary heart disease; and approximately 39% had diabetes, Type 1 or Type 2.
  • The trial’s primary outcome was a composite outcome of heart attack, coronary or non-coronary revascularisation, hospitalisation/emergency room visit for heart failure, stroke or CV death. Secondary outcomes included CV outcomes, kidney outcomes and cognitive outcomes.

Study limitations included that the cardiovascular benefits of the intensive intervention emerged after two years, while the intervention only lasted three years, meaning the relatively short study period may underestimate the benefits, Li said. In addition, the study was conducted in China and therefore, the results may not be generalisable to people in other racial and ethnic groups or living in other countries. However, Li also noted that the results were consistent with similar studies in people of other racial and ethnic groups.

Future work will involve examining the longer-term effects of the intensive intervention strategy over the follow-up period.

Source: American Heart Association