Heart Medications Archive


New findings on statin-memory loss link

A study in JAMA Internal Medicine may help to explain the controversial connection between cholesterol-lowering medications and memory loss. Researchers scrutinized health records of more than 11 million people who saw their primary care doctors from 1987 to 2013. They compared reports of memory problems by three groups of people:

  • 483,000 who were prescribed a statin to lower their cholesterol

  • 26,000 who were given another type of cholesterol-lowering drug (not a statin) to lower cholesterol, such as a fibrate or niacin

  • 483,000 who didn't take any cholesterol drug.

People who took any kind of cholesterol drug—a statin or some other type—were nearly four times more likely to report memory loss right after starting on the drug, compared with people who didn't take any kind of cholesterol drug.

Ask the doctor: Understanding ejection fraction

Q . Can you explain exactly what "ejection fraction" means? And is there any way to increase it?

A. Ejection fraction refers to the volume of blood that's pumped out of the heart's left ventricle each time it contracts. Contrary to what many people believe, a normal ejection fraction is not 100%. Even a healthy heart pumps out only about half to two-thirds of the volume of blood in the chamber in one heartbeat. So a normal ejection fraction lies somewhere in the range of 55% to 65%.

Ask the doctor: Clot prevention drugs after a stent: How long?

Guidelines about how long to take clopidogrel after receiving a stent are in flux.

Image: Thinkstock

Q. My cardiologist told me to take clopidogrel for a year after I received a stent. Now the year is up. I haven't had any bleeding problems. Should I keep taking it?

A. In addition to aspirin, doctors routinely prescribe clopidogrel (Plavix) for people who receive stents, the tiny metal mesh tubes placed in clogged blood vessels to improve blood flow. This medication stops blood components called platelets from clumping together and forming clots. The current guidelines generally recommend that people take the drug for a year. This advice assumes they don't have any side effects such as unusual bleeding, which can show up as severe nosebleeds or blood in the urine or stools. However, these guidelines are still evolving. Experts are currently reviewing new findings from large studies on the benefits and risks of taking clopidogrel and similar drugs for extended periods of time.

Bystander CPR may help cardiac arrest survivors return to work

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) not only saves lives, it may also help survivors of cardiac arrest recover well enough to return to work, according to a study in the May 12, 2015, issue of Circulation.

Researchers studied more than 4,300 people in Denmark who were employed before they suffered a cardiac arrest. In cardiac arrest, the heart suddenly stops working. More than 75% of survivors who had a cardiac arrest outside a hospital were able to return to work in a median time of four months. Those who received CPR from a bystander were nearly 40% more likely go back to work compared with those who didn't get CPR. The chest compressions given during CPR keep blood circulating to the brain, minimizing brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen.

Do blood pressure drugs raise your risk of a fall?

Some research has suggested that older people who take blood pressure medications may be prone to falls, perhaps because the drugs make them dizzy or lightheaded when they stand up. But a new study in the May 2015 Hypertension found no increased risk of falls in people taking blood pressure drugs.

For the study, nearly 600 people with chronic high blood pressure reported their falls to researchers via mail-in postcards and phone calls. Almost half of the participants, whose average age was 78, reported one or more falls during the yearlong study. Neither standard nor high doses of blood pressure drugs were linked to falls. In fact, people who took two commonly prescribed types of blood pressure medications—ACE inhibitors and calcium-channel blockers—had a lower rate of falling compared with people not taking those drugs. Given the known benefits of treating high blood pressure in older people, the authors say, withholding blood pressure medication for fear of causing a fall may not make sense.

Serious side effects are uncommon after heartburn treatment

Serious health problems are uncommon after drugs or surgery to treat chronic heartburn, according to a recent study in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics. Many men take acid-reducing drugs called proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), such as omeprazole (Prilosec, others) and lansoprazole (Prevacid), for chronic heartburn. One alternative is a surgical procedure to tighten the entrance to the stomach and prevent acidic stomach contents from backing up into the esophagus.

The new study drew on findings from two different clinical trials that tracked the health of people treated with either drugs or surgery. One trial involved about 300 people who were followed for up to 12 years; the other involved about 500 people who were followed for five years.

Ask the doctor: Donating blood if you have heart disease

If you have heart disease, you must meet certain criteria to donate blood.

Image: Thinkstock

Q. I have heart disease but would like to donate blood. Is it safe?

Gain more weight, get more GERD

Maintaining a healthy weight is the best way to rein in gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or chronic heartburn, according to a study in The American Journal of Gastroenterology. Researchers found that GERD symptoms increased for every incremental rise in body mass index (BMI), which measures the ratio of weight to height.

In GERD, the acidic contents of the stomach back up into the lower esophagus, causing burning pain. The most effective treatment for GERD is taking an acid-reducing proton-pump inhibitor medication, such as omeprazole (Prilosec). People who are overweight are much more likely to develop GERD.

Acetaminophen seems safe for the heart

After a small study hinted that taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) might increase blood pressure, some doctors worried that this popular painkiller might not be as safe as once assumed, particularly for people with heart disease. But those fears now appear unfounded, according to a March 2015 report in Hypertension.

Using records from a U.K. health database, researchers identified nearly 25,000 people ages 65 and older with high blood pressure. They then compared people who took acetaminophen with people who didn't take the drug over a 10-year period. After adjusting for possible confounding factors, they found no elevated risk of heart attack, stroke, or any cardiovascular events among people who used acetaminophen—even among those who took the painkiller frequently. Despite this reassurance, be aware that high doses of acetaminophen can damage your liver. Don't take more than 3,000 milligrams (mg) a day. Over-the-counter pills (including some cold and flu drugs) may contain up to 650 mg of the drug, so check labels carefully. 

People with high blood pressure need this B vitamin

It appears that people with high blood pressure who take folate along with the blood pressure medicine enalapril (Vasotec) may be less likely to have a stroke than people who take enalapril alone.

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