Two medications commonly used to treat high blood pressure appear to be effective in treating a common type of heart disease known as stable ischemic heart disease, according to a new comparative effectiveness review funded by the Department of Health & Human Services' (HHS) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). A version of the analysis was posted in the October 20 online version of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Treatment featuring the two medications—inhibitors of angiotensin-converting enzyme, or ACE inhibitors, and angiotensin receptor blockers, or ARBs—can lead to a reduction in death, risk of heart attack, risk of stroke and fewer hospitalizations for heart failure for patients suffering from stable ischemic heart disease, researchers found. However, the drugs have risks of their own. Risks associated with ACE inhibitors include a persistent cough, sudden fainting, too much potassium in the blood, and dangerously low blood pressure (hypotension). Risks associated with ARBs include too much potassium in the blood and low blood pressure.
"Stable ischemic heart disease is a major cause of death in the United States, so these findings are very encouraging," said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. "This comparative effectiveness report will be a useful tool for patients to help them work with their clinicians to make choices on treatment."
Stable ischemic heart disease occurs when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart is reduced because of narrowed or blocked arteries. Symptoms of stable ischemic heart disease include decreased tolerance of exercise and severe chest pain on exertion (known as angina), which afflicts about 9 million U.S. adults. Long-term risks of stable ischemic heart disease include heart failure and heart attack. Overall, heart disease is among the Nation's most common and deadly illnesses, afflicting nearly 80 million Americans and killing nearly 2,400 every day.
Standard treatment of stable ischemic heart disease consists of a modification of diet, exercise and medications including aspirin, anti-cholesterol drugs, nitroglycerin and beta blockers. These can keep the disease from worsening. However, while standard treatment usually alleviates chest pain, it is not universally successful in reducing risk of heart failure or heart attack.