Anti-inflammatory drugs may actually help prevent heart attacks

Every few years a doctor will often ask a patient if she has suffered a heart attack. Often a chest X-ray is sent to rule out any changes in heart anatomy in order to help determine whether a patient is really suffering from a heart attack. The problem with chest X-rays is that they can be misleading. Although a heart attack may be evident through a small change in structure and diameter, more complex changes in the heart’s physiology may be undetectable.

The most common impact of a heart attack is scarring of the heart, which slows or halts the heart’s pumping abilities. The normal function of the heart is to contract, contract, contract and then contract again, just as it did when you were a baby. Coronary artery disease, which is the cause of most heart attacks, is one of the most severe and can dramatically alter that heart’s functioning.

The surgery and medications that are used to treat coronary artery disease can help prevent symptoms in patients. These medications are called anti-inflammatory drugs or statins. Statins lower inflammation in the body so that inflammatory molecules, which make people sick, don’t damage tissue in the heart. The classic disease state for atherosclerosis is atherosclerosis, or blockage in coronary arteries.

Anti-inflammatory drugs that block inflammation effectively help patients who suffer from heart attacks recover from these serious illness. Unfortunately, individuals with atherosclerosis may not undergo enough treatment to avoid complications.

Can Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Save Lives?

Let’s take the example of a patient with atherosclerosis whose chest pain can’t be explained by chest X-rays, according to Dr. Jason Richter. Dr. Richter, a professor of cardiology at San Francisco General Hospital, brought this topic to many of the cardiologists at the American College of Cardiology’s annual Scientific Sessions in the spring of 2018.

Anti-inflammatory drugs have been used for decades to treat coronary artery disease. However, studies have shown that the drugs can only do so much. With too little treatment, patients may suffer from heart failure or progressive heart disease, both conditions that could be prevented.

A series of results presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Sessions in September indicated that anti-inflammatory drugs can save lives. When patients with anti-inflammatory disease underwent a six-month course of anti-inflammatory drugs, the incidence of serious complications like heart failure was reduced by more than half. Other serious adverse effects including stroke and death were also reduced. If patients do not go through a combination of anti-inflammatory and heart attack treatment, there is a high risk of severe consequences.

One of the most promising anti-inflammatory drugs is called niacin. Niacin is a B vitamin that is taken by most people to help reduce high cholesterol. Niacin has also been shown to reduce the severity of heart disease.

But niacin can be an issue for many patients because there is a significant intolerance to the drug. Researchers continue to search for other effective treatment options.

Are You At Risk For Heart Disease?

If you have heart disease and have been taking anti-inflammatory drugs for at least a year or three years, consider discussing options to stop the medication. People who are looking to reduce risk for heart disease should consult with their physicians and should make sure they are not experiencing any adverse effects from the drugs they are currently taking.

It’s good to learn which anti-inflammatory drugs are right for you. As we read more and more about the benefits of anti-inflammatory medications, it may make sense to monitor your levels of them. However, if you want to know if you are at risk for heart disease and are over the age of 50, consider talking to your physician about using clinical at-home trials of a heart scan that checks your entire heart.

Brittany Snyder, DO, is a family physician in Warren, PA. She is an expert in treating complex conditions, from diabetes to heart disease. She is an Associate Editor of the Brattleboro Reformer. Her first book, Heart Attack Prevention, has been published by Lewis & Clark Press and is available at bookstores. Follow her on twitter @BrittSnyderMD or @theblazinghealth.

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