Heart Medications Archive


Vena cava filters: Tiny cages that trap blood clots

These special filters protect against pulmonary embolism but also carry risks.

A common complication after surgery, trauma, or a prolonged period of bed rest is the formation of a blood clot in a vein deep inside the legs. Doctors call this a deep vein thrombosis, or DVT. If the clot breaks free of the vessel wall, it can travel through the bloodstream and lodge in a lung artery, causing a catastrophic stoppage of blood flow. This consequence, known as a pulmonary embolism, can be deadly.

Digoxin: Old friend or old foe?











Image: Thinkstock

Foxglove has dramatic spikes of tubeshaped flowers. The leaves are a source of digitalis, a potent heart drug.

The controversial heart failure drug has a new role in limiting hospital stays.

Statin side effects: How common are they?

Images: Thinkstock

You are unlikely to experience side effects from these drugs. If you do, there are ways to reverse them.

Do you take a cholesterol-lowering statin drug or are you considering it? If so, you may be concerned about potential side effects. The most commonly reported ones are muscle aches, but you may have also heard that statins cause diabetes and memory problems.

New thinking on niacin use






Image: Thinkstock

A typical dose is 1.5 to 2 grams, far larger and riskier than the RDA of 15 milligrams per day.

Using niacin to raise "good" cholesterol doesn't lower your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Dietary supplements: Sorting out the science

Image: Nomadsoul1/Getty Images

The widespread belief that most dietary supplements are effective and safe simply isn't true.

A few supplements show limited, possible benefits for people with heart disease. But some popular ones don't—and others may be dangerous.

Pain relievers linked to risk for irregular heart rhythm

If you regularly take aspirin or ibuprofen to relieve arthritis pain, you already know that you need to be mindful of side effects—including to your heart, kidneys, and digestive tract. In recent years, researchers have discovered that people who take such nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be at higher risk for the most common form of irregular heart rhythm—atrial fibrillation. A Dutch study published online April 8, 2014, in BMJ Open found that people ages 55 or older who used NSAIDs for 15 to 30 days were much more likely to develop atrial fibrillation than those who weren't taking these pain relievers at the time of the study. The authors say the reason for the increased risk may be that NSAIDs block cyclooxygenase enzymes, which are produced in the kidneys. Blocking these enzymes may cause the body to hold on to more fluid, leading to a rise in blood pressure, which is a risk factor for atrial fibrillation.

NSAIDs may also lessen the effects of diuretics and other drugs meant to lower blood pressure. The authors say the increased risk begins shortly after people start taking pain relievers, and it may eventually disappear. Though the link between NSAIDs and atrial fibrillation is still not proven, because atrial fibrillation can increase your risk for stroke, heart failure, and death, it's important for you to use caution when taking these pain relievers, especially if you have a history of high blood pressure or heart failure.

Ask the doctor: Statins and the risk of diabetes


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Q. I've heard that taking statins can raise your risk of diabetes. Is this really true?

A. While it's true that some research has shown a link between statin use and a higher risk of diabetes, that observation doesn't necessarily prove a cause-and-effect relationship. However, in a small number of people, statins may raise blood sugar levels—potentially enough to trigger a new diagnosis of diabetes. The risk appears to be greater with higher-potency statins, such as atorvastatin (Lipitor) and simvastatin (Zocor), according to some research.

New guidelines update treatment of atrial fibrillation

Changes include adding new clot-preventing drugs and using less aspirin.

If you have atrial fibrillation (also called afib), your doctor may recommend changes to your treatment based on recently updated guidelines for managing this common heart disorder.

Statin users eating more calories and fat

If you're taking a cholesterol-lowering statin, don't use it as an excuse to slack off on your diet and sneak in extra calories and fat. Apparently, that's what statin users have done in recent years, according to a JAMA Internal Medicine study that looked at diet records from nearly 28,000 adults over a 12-year period.

People who took statins ate 10% more calories and 14% more fat during 2009–2010 than they did in 1999–2000. No such increases were seen in people who were not taking statins, the researchers found. Among statin users, body mass index (BMI) scores rose an average of 1.3 points, which translates to about 9 pounds of weight gain over a decade.

Faster stroke treatment leads to better results









Image: Thinkstock

If a clot blocks blood flow to the brain, causing an ischemic stroke, the sooner a person receives the clot-busting drug known as tPA, the better. In an effort to cut "door-to-needle time" (the time it takes a person to get the drug after arriving at the hospital), researchers launched the Target: Stroke initiative. Started in 2010, the initiative pushed 10 strategies to streamline and speed treatment in the hospital, such as early notification from emergency medical workers and a single-call system for alerting the stroke team.

An analysis of the three-year data, which involved more than 70,000 people in 1,030 hospitals, appeared in The Journal of the American Medical Association. The initiative boosted the percentage of eligible people with door-to-needle times of an hour or less, from just under 30% to just over 53%. The faster treatment was also associated with fewer complications and better outcomes. Under the new processes, more people were able to return home after treatment rather than to a rehabilitation facility, and fewer people died in the hospital.

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