Blood thinner drug reduces stroke risk in people with this heart problem

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Recent research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2023 has shown promising results for the medication apixaban in reducing the risk of stroke and blood clots in patients with implanted heart devices experiencing short bouts of irregular heart rhythms.

This study could significantly impact the treatment of atrial fibrillation (AFib) in patients with such devices.

The Challenge of Asymptomatic AFib

Atrial fibrillation, a common irregular heartbeat condition, can lead to severe health complications like blood clots and stroke.

Detecting AFib, particularly when it’s asymptomatic, is challenging. This study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, sheds light on treating this elusive condition.

Apixaban vs. Aspirin

The study, called the ARTESIA trial, involved over 4,000 adults across North America and Europe. These individuals had pacemakers, defibrillators, or cardiac monitors that detected asymptomatic AFib.

The research compared the effectiveness of apixaban, an anticoagulant, with aspirin in reducing stroke and clot risks.

Key Findings

Stroke and Clot Reduction: Apixaban users experienced a 37% reduction in stroke or blood clot incidence, with a notable 51% decrease in fatal or disabling strokes.

Bleeding Risks: While apixaban was linked to a 74% higher risk of major bleeding compared to aspirin, the bleeding was not life-threatening, and severe bleeds were comparable in both groups.

Clinical Implications: The study’s lead, Dr. Jeff Healey, suggests these findings could lead to changes in treatment guidelines, advocating for the use of anticoagulants in managing subclinical AFib in heart device patients.

Future Perspectives

While the study offers valuable insights, it’s important to note that it focused solely on individuals with implanted heart devices.

Additionally, the study did not address whether consumer technologies like smartwatches, which can detect short-lasting AFib episodes, warrant anti-clotting medication use.

Future research aims to further tailor therapies by identifying patient subgroups at varying risks for stroke, blood clots, and bleeding.

In summary, the ARTESIA trial reveals that apixaban may be a more effective option than aspirin in preventing stroke and blood clots in patients with heart devices and asymptomatic AFib.

This breakthrough has the potential to transform how clinicians approach treatment for this patient population.

If you care about stroke, please read studies about how to eat to prevent stroke, and diets high in flavonoids could help reduce stroke risk.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about how Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and wild blueberries can benefit your heart and brain.

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