What Your Patients are Reading

Cardiology Review® Online, February 2012, Volume 28, Issue 1

Another Statin Bonus?

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tatins are already widely used to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease and death from cardiac events. Now there’s evidence that taking statins may help prevent deaths from influenza. A recent study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases found that among more than 3000 older adults hospitalized with influenza in 2007-2008, those who were taking statins before or during their hospitalizations were 41% less likely to die from the flu over 30 days compared with those who did not use statins.

The absolute risk of death was 3.9% in the patients taking statins and 5.5% in those not taking statins. Even after adjusting for age, race, underlying health conditions, and flu vaccination status as well as antiviral drugs that patients received, statins’ benefit persisted.

Study coauthor Ann Thomas, MD, MPH, a physician at the Oregon Public Health Division, said that there is not yet enough evidence to justify statins becoming the standard of care for people hospitalized with the flu, but the findings should be investigated in a clinical trial to confirm the observed association.

Other factors could be responsible for the study’s findings, cautioned Jeffry Kwong, MD, a scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Science in Toronto who studied statins and the flu. Dr Kwong said people who take statins are inherently different from people who don’t take them, and may be more likely to take care of themselves in general and to be healthier overall, compared with those who don’t take medications for health.

Heart Attack Screening Guidelines for Student Athletes Not Being Followed

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f Washington State is an example of what goes on in the other 49 states, fewer than 6% of US doctors are fully following national guidelines for assessing the risk of sudden cardiac death in high school athletes. National guidelines concerning sudden cardiac death screening exams during high school sports physicals have been unchanged since 1996, when the American Heart Association (AHA) published a 12-point sudden cardiac death screening guideline, which was reaffirmed in 2007.

According to lead researcher Nicolas Madsen, MD, MPH, of the Seattle Children’s Hospital and the University of Washington School of Medicine, many doctors and athletic directors are not even aware the guidelines exist. He presented the study’s findings at the AHA’s Scientific Sessions 2011.

The study surveyed 1113 family doctors and pediatricians and 317 high school athletic directors in Washington state. Less than half of doctors and only 6% of athletic directors said they were aware of the screening guidelines, and none of the athletic directors said their schools required physicals to comply with the guidelines, which include 8 medical history questions and 4 physical exam elements, including checking blood pressure and listening to the heart.

Studies suggest that out of more than 7 million US high school athletes, 1 of every 30,000 to 50,000 athletes dies annually from out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest.