A new government-backed study, presented at the American Heart Association (AHA), has found that medication and lifestyle changes may be just as effective as surgery for some types of heart disease. Researchers studied more than 5,000 patients with heart blockages, finding that stents did not perform any better than medications or a healthier lifestyle.
The study only included people who had a narrowing of their coronary arteries, but with stable symptoms and no severe coronary artery disease. Those with more severe heart disease, such as unstable symptoms, a recent heart attack or blockages in the left main coronary artery, were excluded.
Ischemia is a narrowing of the arteries. When it affects those that supply the heart, it can result in less blood and oxygen reaching the heart muscle. This is known as ischemic heart disease. It often causes angina pectoris, or chest pain. In severe cases, ischemia can lead to a heart attack.
Stents are tiny mesh tubes that are inserted into an artery to keep it open after an artery-widening procedure called an angioplasty. Modern stents also release drugs inside the artery to decrease the chance that blockages will occur again.
In the past, stents were considered almost immediately, but this study has shown that overall, these procedures don’t significantly reduce a person’s chances of having a heart attack, or dying from heart problems or any cause compared with non-invasive medical approaches alone.
The lifestyle changes included smoking cessation, exercise and healthy diet. Although this may not work for everyone, it may be a viable option for many.
Photo from here, with thanks.