Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Applying cardiac advances saves lives

Heart Beat

Applying cardiac advances saves lives

Organizations like the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association spend a lot of time sifting through the ever-growing mountain of studies to come up with guidelines for treating cardiovascular disease. When doctors follow these guidelines (which isn't always the case), do their patients really benefit? Information from an international database called the Global Registry of Acute Coronary Events (GRACE) shows that it definitely makes a difference for heart attack victims.

GRACE includes information on more than 44,000 people who suffered acute coronary events between 1999 and 2006. (Acute coronary event is the catchall term for heart attack and unstable angina, which is essentially chest pain at rest.) During that time, results from large randomized trials clearly showed the value of immediate angioplasty to open blocked coronary arteries, as well as the benefits of early statin therapy and wider use of beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and antiplatelet drugs such as aspirin and clopidogrel (Plavix).

By crunching the GRACE data, a multinational team of investigators found that as the use of these evidence-based therapies spread into practice over time, so did survival from heart attack and unstable angina. Rates of in-hospital death, heart failure, the accumulation of fluid in the lungs, and subsequent heart attacks all dropped.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »