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Real-world analysis reveals high level of recurrent cardiovascular events and death 6 months after primary episode

28th March 2022

Recurrent cardiovascular events and death occur largely within 6 months of the primary event according to an analysis of real-world data

Both recurrent cardiovascular events (CVs) and death have been found to occur mainly within the first 6 months after the primary event according to a real-world analysis of registry data by researchers from the Heart and Lung Center, Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of deaths and disability worldwide and the World Health Organization estimates that CVD is response for 17.9 million lives lost each year. Despite falls in the mortality rates of CVD across Europe, more than 4 million people continue to die each year from the disease, with more than 1.4 million dying prematurely, before the age of 75 years. Moreover, recurrent cardiovascular events are not uncommon and one study among patients with acute coronary syndrome (ACS) found that 9% of patients experienced a recurrent cardiovascular event in the post-ACS setting during a median follow-up of 1 year.

But which factors are associated with an increased risk of recurrent CVs and death among secondary prevention patients, and when are these most likely to occur, was the subject of the present, registry-based study by the Finnish team. They undertook a retrospective analysis, using hospital data, of adult patients who experienced their first atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ACVD) event between 2012 and 2016. The team defined an ACVD event as a myocardial infraction (MI), unstable angina (UA), ischaemic stroke (IS) or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA). In addition, a recurrent event as a new diagnosis of the same condition as the index event, a minimum of 7 days from the first episode and all mortality data were retrieved from the hospital database.

Characteristics of cardiovascular events

In total, 48,405 adults with a median age of 71.5 years (53.8% male) were followed for a mean of 2.2 years. Among the whole cohort, 40.1% had an IS, 29.4% and MI and 19.5% a TIA as their index event. Co-morbidities included hypertension (12.9%) and diabetes (16.7%).

Among the current CVs, death was the most common subsequent event (61.5%) and a recurrent event occurred in 38.5% of patients. It was also clear that the category of subsequent events mirrored the initial episode (i.e., a second MI after the first). The cardiovascular events rate also increased after each recurrence. For instance, the combined recurrent/deaths events rate increased from 13.4 per 100 patient-years for the first event, to 36.8 for the third recurrent event.

In terms of the time to the recurrent event, after 6 months, 14% of patients had suffered any recurrent event or had died. This stabilised over time, so that after 5 years, 41.5% of patients had either suffered an event or died.

When considering the risk factors most significantly associated with risk of subsequent cardiovascular events, this increased with each increased year of age (hazard ratio, HR = 1.02 (95% CI 1.02 – 1.02, p < 0.001). Other significant factors included the presence of diabetes (HR = 1.21, 95% CI 1.11 – 1.32, p < 0.001) and hypertension (HR = 1.18). The risk of death was also significantly associated with male gender (HR = 1.18) but the only co-morbidity was diabetes (HR = 1.63, 95% CI 1.53 – 1.73, p < 0.001). Moreover, male gender and diabetes were also significantly associated with the risk of recurrency to death.

The authors concluded that given their findings, an acute CV event should be promptly followed by secondary prevention measures.

Toppila I et al. Cardiovascular event rate and death in high‐risk secondary prevention patient cohort in Finland: A registry study Clin Cardiol 2022

Anti-hypertensive use combined with healthy lifestyle significantly reduces mortality risk

14th February 2022

Anti-hypertensive drug use in combination with a healthy lifestyle is associated with the greatest reduction in all causes of death

The use of anti-hypertensive drugs when combined with healthy lifestyle measures appears to be the best strategy to reduce all-cause and cause-specific mortality. This is according to a study by Chinese researchers from the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Hubei, China.

Hypertension significantly increases the risks of heart, brain, kidney and other diseases and according to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 1.28 billion adults aged 30-79 years worldwide have hypertension, most of whom are living in low- and middle-income countries. Furthermore, a 2019 analysis calculated that a high systolic blood pressure accounted for approximately 10·8 million deaths which was 19.2% of all recorded deaths in 2019. Hypertension is managed with a range of different classes of medicines, yet non-adherence to anti-hypertensive treatment affects 10%–80% of hypertensive patients and is one of the key drivers of suboptimal BP control. With respect to lifestyle modification, there is strong evidence supporting the benefits of regular physical activity and exercise for the prevention and management of hypertension. However, whether the combination of anti-hypertensive medication and healthy lifestyle measures yields additional benefits and if adoption of healthy lifestyle measures after a diagnosis of hypertension provides a mortality benefit remains uncertain.

For the present study, the Chinese team examined the relationship between anti-hypertensive use and lifestyle measures and the effect of this on all-cause and cause-specific mortality among hypertensive patients. They used data from the Dongfeng-Tongji cohort, which prospectively followed hypertensive patients for a median of 7.3 years. The team assessed specific lifestyle factors including body mass index, smoking status, diet, physical activity and sleep duration and computed an overall lifestyle score based on these five attributes, with higher scores (ranging from 0 to 10) indicating a healthier lifestyle. In addition, participants were categorised into the following subgroups: favourable lifestyle (scores 8 – 10), intermediate (5- 7) and unfavourable (0 – 4). The use of anti-hypertensive medication was dichotomised into yes or no.

Anti-hypertensive use and subsequent mortality

A total of 14,392 participants with a mean age of 65.6 years (50.6% male) using anti-hypertensive medicines were included in the analysis. Over a median of 7.3 years, there were 2015 deaths including 761 due to cardiovascular disease and 525 from cancer. Taking individuals not using anti-hypertensives and following an unfavourable lifestyle as the reference group, individuals using anti-hypertensives and with a favourable lifestyle had the lowest risk of all-cause mortality (hazard ratio, HR = 0.32, 95% CI 0.25 – 0.42). This was also true for cardiovascular mortality (HR = 0.33) and death due to cancer (HR = 0.30).

Interestingly, when using the same reference group, individuals who were not using anti-hypertensives but adopted a favourable lifestyle, also had a lower risk of all-cause mortality (HR = 0.34), cardiovascular (HR = 0.40) and cancer mortality (HR = 0.33). In fact, there was a linear association with lifestyle score and mortality, such that regardless or anti-hypertensive medication use, each 1-point increase in lifestyle score was associated with a 17% lower risk of all-cause mortality, with similar reductions for cardiovascular and cancer deaths.

There was also a reduced mortality risk through the adoption of lifestyle measures after a diagnosis of hypertension. For example, compared to those with a consistently low lifestyle score between baseline and the first follow-up, those who instigated a change in lifestyle score from low to high also had a significantly reduced risk for all-cause (HR = 0.52), cardiovascular (HR = 0.53) mortality although the reduced risk of cancer mortality was non-significant.

The authors concluded that the combined effect of anti-hypertensive medication and adoption of a healthy lifestyle resulted in a significantly reduced risk of all and specific cause mortality.

Lu Q et al. Association of Lifestyle Factors and Antihypertensive Medication Use With Risk of All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality Among Adults With Hypertension in China JAMA Netw Open 2022