Atrial Fibrillation? Try Giving Up Alcohol

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that drinkers suffering from atrial fibrillation who stopped drinking for the period of the study significantly reduced episodes of atrial fibrillation. 

According to doctors, alcohol consumption appears to be a significant risk factor and trigger for atrial fibrillation, while teetotaling appears to have a profound impact.

Dr. John Osborne, an American Heart Association spokesperson, said the benefit from giving up drinking was similar to results seen from drugs used to treat atrial fibrillation.  Even if patients are not able to completely abstain from alcohol, Osborne advised cutting back significantly. “It costs nothing and led to a substantial reduction in hospital rates. People in the abstinence group also lost an average of 3.8 kilograms [8.4 pounds] in six months,” he said.

Not everyone thinks that teetotaling is a workable treatment for afib, however. Critics say that encouraging abstinence is unrealistic and is not a permanent solution to the problem.  In fact, a planned follow-up study had to be shortened due the difficulty of finding participants willing to abstain from drinking for a whole year.

 

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Overweight HCM Patients Fare Worse

This week, researchers from the eight HCM centers comprising the Sarcomeric Human Cardiomyopathy Registry [SHARE Registry] published a paper that every HCM patient should take to heart.

The sobering findings are that overweight HCM patients have a higher incidence of obstruction, heart failure and atrial fibrillation than their normal weight counterparts. As a result of this study, the researchers suggest heightened attention to weight management and exercise in order to prevent disease-related progression and complications.

Continue reading “Overweight HCM Patients Fare Worse”

Lifestyle Influences HCM

According to this recent article published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, lifestyle choices can influence the development and/or progression of HCM.

In particular, the authors made the following recommendations:

  •  Exercise:  Recreational exercise should be encouraged in HCM patients.
    • This recommendation was largely based on the findings of the recent RESET-HCM study which found that moderate exercise, specifically tailored to each individual patient’s capacity, was beneficial to the patient’s general health and well being.  **For an in-depth look at the RESET-HCM study, check out this recent HCMBeat interview with the authors of the study, Drs. Sara Saberi and Sharlene Day.
  • Eating and Drinking: 
    • Patients should avoid large meals and should not exercise immediately after eating.  
    • Care should be taken to avoid becoming dehydrated.
    • Alcohol should only be consumed in moderation.
  • Healthy weight should be maintained.
  • Hypertension should be treated aggressively, though treatment may be challenging, especially in obstructive HCM.
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea, which may exist in as many as 70% of HCM patients, should be treated to minimize potential for arrhythmia and to improve blood flow.

RESET-HCM: Rethinking Exercise for HCM Patients – Interview with Dr. Sara Saberi and Dr. Sharlene Day

Editor’s note: This is our first interview feature on HCMBeat.  In the future, we hope to feature more interviews with other HCM researchers who have published articles of interest to the HCM community.  

By now, you have probably already heard the buzz about RESET- HCM – a study about the effects of exercise on HCM patients conducted by Dr. Sara Saberi and Dr. Sharlene Day at the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Clinic of the University of Michigan’s Frankel Cardiovascular Center in collaboration with Dr. Matthew Wheeler and Dr. Euan Ashley of Stanford’s HCM Center. The findings were presented at the American College of Cardiology Conference on March 17, 2017 held in Washington D.C. and were the subject of this feature on HCMBeat. 

Recently, Cynthia Waldman of HCMBeat had the opportunity to sit down with Drs. Saberi and Day for a detailed conversation (over Skype) about the study.  What follows is a transcript of their conversation (which has been edited for readability).

Continue reading “RESET-HCM: Rethinking Exercise for HCM Patients – Interview with Dr. Sara Saberi and Dr. Sharlene Day”

One Size Does NOT Fit All: Treatments Differ by Stage in HCM

There are distinct stages of HCM and treatments will vary according to the stage. Therefore, it is important, according to a recent article in the Netherlands Heart Journal, for patients to seek treatment from teams experienced in the the treatment of HCM.  These professionals are able to recognize transitions in the course of the disease as they occur, and then implement necessary changes in treatment.

In this thorough overview of HCM and its treatment, Dr. Iacopo Olivotto and his colleagues in the Netherlands observe that HCM is seen infrequently by community cardiologists (as compared to more common heart conditions like coronary artery disease). Hence, one of the major difficulties in HCM practice has been identification of patients at highest risk.

Continue reading “One Size Does NOT Fit All: Treatments Differ by Stage in HCM”

Yes We Scan! ICDs and MRIs

Why MRI is Important:

Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, is one of the most important tools of modern medicine.  MRIs can be used to evaluate almost every kind of medical issue, from brain tumors to twisted ankles.  They provide clear images, and in some instances, also provide superior visualization.  Because they do not expose the imaging subject to radiation, they are generally preferred over CT scans, even when the two scans would reveal the same information.

MRI in HCM:

In the last several years, MRI has also become an important tool in the evaluation of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).  The images resulting from MRI have proven superior in visualizing the size and structure of the heart and, when used with a contrast agent, MRIs are able to show the extent of scarring in the HCM heart.

MRI Hasn’t Been an Option for Many of Us:

MRI has been unavailable to those of us who have an implantable defibrillator or ICD to in order to protect us from sudden cardiac arrest.  Until recently, having an ICD was an absolute contraindication to MRI.  Newer MRI-safe ICD systems have been in use for the last few years, but that still leaves in place the contraindication for those of us who have older ICD units in place.  That problem is that older lead systems that were implanted along with old, non-MR compatible generators may be incompatible with the newer MR compatible technology, and it may not be possible to simply hook up these old leads to a new MRI compatible generator.  And, it is not as easy as you might think to extract old leads.  Scar tissue grows around these leads, making their removal an intricate and dangerous procedure that is best done only in carefully controlled circumstances by highly specialized physicians. Continue reading “Yes We Scan! ICDs and MRIs”