Statins Cut Death Risk

Soon After Heart Attack

Giving a heart attack patient a statin drug right away cuts the risk of death in half, researchers said yesterday.

Statin drugs are used to lower cholesterol and prevent strokes and heart attacks long-term, but the new study suggests that the drugs might join aspirin as something to give patients immediately after a heart attack.

"We've known that long-term statin therapy is beneficial, but this study provides the strongest clinical evidence to date supporting the early cardioprotective effects of statins immediately following a heart attack," said cardiologist Gregg Fonarow of the University of California at Los Angeles.

Fonarow's team looked at the records of more than 170,000 heart attack patients. Those given statin drugs before hospitalization and within 24 hours after a heart attack had a 54 percent lower risk of dying in the hospital compared with other patients, they reported in the September issue of the American Journal of Cardiology.

Patients who had not been taking statins but were given one within 24 hours of hospitalization were 58 percent less likely to die.

Aspirin Before Surgery

May Boost Survival

Taking aspirin in the days before open-heart surgery may help patients survive, not endanger them, a Mayo Clinic study found.

In-hospital mortality rates for patients taking aspirin were significantly lower than for patients not taking it, according to the study, in today's issue of the journal Circulation. The team, led by R. Scott Wright, used data from 1,636 patients who had first-time bypass surgery between 2000 and 2002.

Heart patients routinely take aspirin because it reduces the risk of a blocked artery. Many doctors take their patients off the drug before surgery because of concerns about excess bleeding.

The study divided patients into two groups: 1,316 patients who had taken aspirin within the five days before surgery and 320 who had not. The mortality rate in the hospital for those taking aspirin was 1.7 percent, compared with 4.4 percent for those who had not taken aspirin. Patients taking aspirin had a 3.5 percent risk of excess bleeding, compared with 3.4 percent for those who were not taking it.

For Patients, Asthma

Has an Emotional Side

Mentioning words such as "wheeze" can activate the brains of asthma patients, researchers said yesterday in a study that sheds light on the emotional underpinnings of the disease. They found that asthma patients have extra brain activity in an area called the anterior cingulate cortex, which is associated with emotional responses.

The small study of six patients, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the brains of people with asthma may over-react to emotional and physiological signals related to their disease.

Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin at Madison and colleagues said their findings may help explain why asthma attacks in response to allergens can worsen during stressful times.

-- From News Services