(RxWiki News) A type of blood pressure medication may do more than treat hypertension. It also may help patients with heart valve disease live longer lives and avoid open heart surgery.
A type of drug known as angiotensin receptor blockers could reduce risk of death by 30 percent in patients with calcific aortic stenosis, which occurs when the opening to the aortic valve hardens and narrows. Often calcium forms in the valve, preventing it from opening and closing properly.
"Ask your cardiologist about options for treating valve conditions."
Dr. Philippe Pibarot, a researcher with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, a professor at Laval University and Canada Research Chair in Valvular Heart Diseases at the Québec Heart & Lung Institute, said the finding shifts thinking about the disease as a new pathway to prevent and reverse calcification. He noted that the discovery has "tremendous potential" to lead to a major discovery.
The drug treatment would be considerably more affordable than the estimated $30,000 for heart surgery, Dr. Pibarot said. About 80,000 patients with the common heart valve condition have heart surgery each year. It is the second most frequent heart surgery after coronary artery bypass surgery.
Researchers followed 340 patients with calcific aortic stenosis over a period of three and a half years. Of the participants, 73 percent had high blood pressure, with 34 percent taking ACE inhibitors, 16 percent taking angiotensin receptor blockers and 50 percent did not take medication.
During follow up, investigators measured the velocity of the blood flowing across the affected valve. Quicker velocity indicates that the stenosis is progressing faster.
As compared to patients who did not take medication, ACE inhibitors appeared to slow valve narrowing. Results were more substantial in patients taking angiotensin receptor blockers with disease progress slowing substantially. They found the narrowing in these patients was occurring at a rate three times slower than those taking no blood pressure drugs.
The unpublished research was recently presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2011, hosted by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society.