should we trust and follow evidence based guidelines?

Guidelines authored by Medical bodies like American Heart Association are strongly followed in our cardiology practise in India as there is lack of trial data conducted in India. I as a practising cardiologist strongly advocate Guideline based therapy. 

However, lately I have been surprised by the recommendations of the new guidelines on various topics. This is because of the change in recommendations which are totally contrary to the previous version of the guidelines. 

Let me cite some examples:

  1. The ATP-3 guidelines strongly advocated Goal based therapy for LDL-cholesterol management. They suggested that LDL cholesterol should be maintained below 100 mg/dl in patients with diabetes  or coronary artery disease. These recommendations were followed by Cardiologists all over the world for the last 12-13 years. However, the new guidelines on Lipid management released by the ACC 2014 mentions that there is no trial to suggest that the target-based therapy of LDL cholesterol works. Instead they advocate high dose statin to be given in patients with high risks and to bring down the LDL cholesterol levels by 50%. This is a drastic change which then calls into question the data on which the earlier ATP guidelines were based.

2.  Beta-blockers were advocated in earlier version of guidelines for treatment of Vasovagal syncope. Even, in my personal experience I have number of patients who felt better with beta-blockers and had remission in their symptoms. However, the new guidelines mentions beta-blockers as Class III (harmful).

3. Amiodarone was advocated earlier for acute treatment of  recurrent ventricular tachycardia (VT). However the new European guidelines on Arrhythmias in ACS mentions that it should be avoided and instead Cardioversion should be preferred.

 

The drastic change in the new recommendations/ guidelines  for treatment of the various disorders (as mentioned above in examples) is unexpected and surprising. The reasons for these may be availability of new trial data or not a thorough evaluation of the trials by earlier committees.

Whatever the reasons, for us as practising Clinicians, patient safety is paramount. Thus, Strict adherence to the new guidelines is advisable and to be followed (till the time we have data available from trials conducted in India on Indian patients). However the therapy should be discussed with and individualised for each patient.

 

 

Guidelines for Treating Overweight and Obesity.

The recently released “2013 AHA/ACC/TOS Guideline for the Management of Overweight and Obesity in Adults” was created to reflect the latest research to outline best practices when it comes to treating obesity—a condition that affects more than one-third of American adults.

These guidelines help address questions like “What’s the best way to lose weight?” and “When is bariatric surgery appropriate?”.

Here is what every patient should know about the treatment of overweight and obesity:

Definition of obesity:

Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it can have an adverse effect on one’s health. Obesity can be diagnosed using body mass index (BMI), a measurement of height and weight, as well as waist circumference. Obesity is categorized as having a BMI of 30 or greater. Abdominal obesity is defined as having a waist circumference greater than 40 inches for a man or 35 inches for a woman.

Benefits of weight loss:

Obesity increases risk for serious conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and death, but losing just a little bit of weight can result in significant health benefits. For an adult who is obese, losing just 3–5% of body weight can improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels and reduce risk for heart disease and diabetes. Ideally, doctors recommend 5–10% weight loss for obese adults, which can produce even greater health benefits.

Weight loss strategies:

There is no single diet or weight loss program that works best for all patients. In general, reduced caloric intake and a comprehensive lifestyle intervention involving physical activity and behavior modification tailored according to a patient’s preferences and health status is most successful for sustained weight loss. Further, weight loss interventions should include frequent visits with health care providers and last more than one year for sustained weight loss.

Bariatric Surgery:

Bariatric surgery may be a good option for severely obese patients to reduce their risk of health complications and improve overall health. However, bariatric surgery should be reserved for only the highest risk patients until more evidence is available on this issue. Present guidelines advise that weight loss surgery is only recommended for patients with extreme obesity (BMI>40) or in patients that have a BMI>35, in addition to a chronic health condition.

 

via Guidelines for Treating Overweight and Obesity.

New Cholesterol Guidelines Abandon LDL Targets!

 

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA), in conjunction with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), have developed and released Guidelines for Cholesterol Control after 9 years of the release of the last version. 

And they contain some substantial changes!

Gone are the recommended LDL- and non-HDL–cholesterol targets, specifically those that ask physicians to treat patients with cardiovascular disease to less than 100 mg/dL or the optional goal of less than 70 mg/dL.

According to the expert panel, there is simply no evidence from clinical trials to support treatment to a specific target. As a result, the new guidelines make no recommendations for specific LDL-cholesterol or non-HDL targets for the primary and secondary prevention of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

Instead, the new guidelines identify four groups of  patients in whom physicians should focus their efforts to reduce cardiovascular disease events. And in these four patient groups, the new guidelines make recommendations regarding the appropriate “intensity” of statin therapy in order to achieve relative reductions in LDL cholesterol.

 

The Four Major Statin Groups

The four major patient groups who should be treated with statins were identified on the basis of randomized, controlled clinical trials showing that the benefit of treatment outweighed the risk of adverse events. The four treatment groups include:

1. Individuals with clinical atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

2. Individuals with LDL-cholesterol levels >190 mg/dL, such as those with familial hypercholesterolemia.

3. Individuals with diabetes aged 40 to 75 years old with LDL-cholesterol levels between 70 and 189 mg/dL and without evidence of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

4. Individuals without evidence of cardiovascular disease or diabetes but who have LDL-cholesterol levels between 70 and 189 mg/dL and a 10-year risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease >7.5%.

 

In those with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, high-intensity statin therapy—such as rosuvastatin (Crestor, AstraZeneca) 20 to 40 mg or atorvastatin 80 mg—should be used to achieve at least a 50% reduction in LDL cholesterol unless otherwise contraindicated or when statin-associated adverse events are present. In other settings a  moderate reduction of LDL-cholesterol may be aimed for.

The guidelines advise not to aim to achieve a target value of LDL-cholesterol in these patients subsets but advice to start statins in moderate or high intensity to achieve significant reductions in LDL cholesterol from their baseline levels.

 

via New Cholesterol Guidelines Abandon LDL Targets.

Who benefits from anti-cholesterol drugs (Statins): 2013 Guidelines by ACC.

Who benefits from anti-cholesterol drugs (Statins): 2013 Guidelines by ACC.

The new ACC/ American Heart Association Guideline on the Treatment of Blood Cholesterol to Reduce Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Risk in Adults focuses on the use of statins for primary and secondary prevention of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) in higher risk patients. Here are 5 key points you should know about the recommendations.

Warning Signs of a Heart Attack!

 

Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:

 

Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.

Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

 

Learn the signs, but remember this: Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, have it checked out (tell a doctor about your symptoms).

Minutes matter! Fast action can save lives — maybe your own. Don’t wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1 or your emergency response number.

Calling 9-1-1 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment. Emergency medical services (EMS) staff can begin treatment when they arrive — up to an hour sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by car. EMS staff are also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped. Patients with chest pain who arrive by ambulance usually receive faster treatment at the hospital, too. It is best to call EMS for rapid transport to the emergency room

via Warning Signs of a Heart Attack.

Life’s Simple 7

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer!  One needs to live a healthy lifestyle involving daily exercise and a healthy diet to reduce heart disease.

The American Heart Association has identified seven health and behavior factors that impact health and quality of life. We know that even simple, small changes can make a big difference in living a better life.

Known as “Life’s Simple 7,” these steps can help add years to your life:

don’t smoke;

maintain a healthy weight;

engage in regular physical activity;

eat a healthy diet;

manage blood pressure;

take charge of cholesterol; and

keep blood sugar, or glucose, at healthy levels.

So follow them as much as possible and be healthy!