Follow-up cholesterol testing reduces risk of reocurrence for heart attack and stroke patients

November 13, 2017, Intermountain Medical Center

If you have a heart attack or stroke, it's important to get your "bad" cholesterol measured by your doctor on a follow up visit. Researchers have found that one step is significantly associated with a reduced risk of suffering another serious cardiovascular episode.

The new research, conducted by researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, found that who don't follow up with their doctor by getting a low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol test following a heart attack or stroke are significantly more likely to have a reccurrence.

Researchers found a significant and clinically meaningful difference in major adverse outcomes—including death, a heart attack, a stroke, and a vascular bypass or an angioplasty—based on whether or not a patient has a follow-up measurement of their LDL cholesterol.

Researchers say the results of the study suggest LDL cholesterol levels should be regularly measured after an initial heart attack or stroke. LDL is the "bad" cholesterol, and main source that becomes part of the plaque that clogs arteries and makes heart and strokes more likely.

"It's clear that anyone with a previous heart problem caused by clogged arteries should be taking a cholesterol-lowering medication," said Kirk U. Knowlton, MD, lead author of the study and director of cardiovascular research at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute.

The study of more than 60,000 patients with known heart , or peripheral artery disease, including stroke and , showed the major adverse clinical event rate was lower in both patients who took cholesterol-lowering statins and those who didn't if their LDL was measured.

"The large difference is surprising. The risk of dying after three years with no LDL follow-up is 21 percent versus 5.9 percent for patients who have an LDL follow-up," said Dr. Knowlton.

Results of the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute study will be presented at the 2017 Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association, in Anaheim, CA, on Nov. 12.

The Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute study reviewed Intermountain Healthcare's enterprise data warehouse, one of the nation's largest depositories of clinical data, to identify all adults who came to one of Intermountain's 22 hospitals for the first time with a heart attack or stroke. These included patients with , cerebrovascular disease, and admitted between January 1, 1999, and December 31, 2013.

Researchers looked at patients who survived and were followed for three years or more, or until their death. Patient demographics, history, prescribed medications, and whether LDL was measured was analyzed. "We looked at a variety of parameters—which represents one real benefit Intermountain offers to medical researchers and providers nationwide," Dr. Knowlton said. "They've been collecting data since the 1990s and it's a phenomenal data set."

The study compared 62,070 patients in the database who met the study criteria. The average age was 66 years old, with 65 percent of patients being male. Of those who met the criteria, 69.3 percent had coronary artery disease, 18.6 percent had cerebrovascular disease, and 12.1 percent had peripheral arterial disease when they came to the hospital with their first attack or stroke.

Researchers found the risk of a patient having a secondary event or dying decreased in those who had a follow-up LDL test before a subsequent adverse outcome or before the end of their follow-up.

Dr. Knowlton says the study reinforces how important it is for patients to continually take their cholesterol medications.

"Patients need to know that if they've had a cardiovascular event, continuing to take their medications will not only lower their LDL, but substantially lower their risk of having another event," he noted. "We need to emphasize to doctors how important it is to follow up therapy for patients with measurement of their LDL cholesterol. And patients need to talk to or ask their doctors about the test, especially if they've had a or stroke."

Explore further: Heart attack and stroke patients prescribed statin medication upon discharge have better outcomes

Related Stories

Heart attack and stroke patients prescribed statin medication upon discharge have better outcomes

November 12, 2017
Patients with a prior history of heart attacks or stroke have better outcomes when cholesterol-lowering medications are used after they're discharged from the hospital, according to a new study from the Intermountain Medical ...

Extreme swings in blood pressure are just as deadly as having consistently high blood pressure

November 9, 2017
Extreme ups and downs in systolic blood pressure may be just as deadly as having consistently high blood pressure, according to a new study from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City.

Death rate for depressed heart patients double than for non-depressed heart patients

July 28, 2017
People who are diagnosed with coronary artery disease and then develop depression face a risk of death that's twice as high as heart patients without depression, according to a major new study by researchers at Intermountain ...

New study finds people who have high levels of two markers at high risk of adverse heart events

March 17, 2017
New research suggests that GlycA, a newly identified blood marker, and C-reactive protein both independently predict major adverse cardiac events, including heart failure and death. Patients who have high levels of both biomarkers ...

Study finds testosterone supplementation reduces heart attack risk in men with heart disease

April 3, 2016
A new multi-year study from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City shows that testosterone therapy helped elderly men with low testosterone levels and pre-existing coronary artery disease reduce ...

New study finds potential breakthrough in determining who's at risk for heart attacks

March 19, 2017
Researchers are revisiting their views on the relative dangers soft and hard atherosclerotic plaque deposits pose to heart health. Findings of a new study by researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute ...

Recommended for you

Researchers borrow from AIDS playbook to tackle rheumatic heart disease

January 22, 2018
Billions of US taxpayer dollars have been invested in Africa over the past 15 years to improve care for millions suffering from the HIV/AIDS epidemic; yet health systems on the continent continue to struggle. What if the ...

A nanoparticle inhalant for treating heart disease

January 18, 2018
A team of researchers from Italy and Germany has developed a nanoparticle inhalant for treating people suffering from heart disease. In their paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the group describes ...

Starting periods before age of 12 linked to heightened risk of heart disease and stroke

January 15, 2018
Starting periods early—before the age of 12—is linked to a heightened risk of heart disease and stroke in later life, suggests an analysis of data from the UK Biobank study, published online in the journal Heart.

'Decorated' stem cells could offer targeted heart repair

January 10, 2018
Although cardiac stem cell therapy is a promising treatment for heart attack patients, directing the cells to the site of an injury - and getting them to stay there - remains challenging. In a new pilot study using an animal ...

Two simple tests could help to pinpoint cause of stroke

January 10, 2018
Detecting the cause of the deadliest form of stroke could be improved by a simple blood test added alongside a routine brain scan, research suggests.

Exercise is good for the heart, high blood pressure is bad—researchers find out why

January 10, 2018
When the heart is put under stress during exercise, it is considered healthy. Yet stress due to high blood pressure is bad for the heart. Why? And is this always the case? Researchers of the German Centre for Cardiovascular ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.