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Comorbidities in Patients With Heart Failure: Treating the Whole Patient
August 29, 2017

Comorbidities in Patients With Heart Failure: Treating the Whole Patient

Laura Joszt
Patients with heart failure tend to have other health issues, requiring cardiologists to understand how to care for heart failure while keeping in mind treatment for these other comorbidities, said panelists at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2017, held August 26-30 in Barcelona, Spain.
Patients with heart failure tend to have other health issues, requiring cardiologists to understand how to care for heart failure while keeping in mind treatment for these other comorbidities, said panelists at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2017, held August 26-30 in Barcelona, Spain.
 
Comorbidities are important to remember, emphasized Petar M. Seferović, MD, PhD, FACC, FESC, of the University of Belgrade, who outlined treatments for patients who also have diabetes. Cardiovascular disease is a major burden on patients with diabetes and heart failure is among the most frequent of cardiovascular issues.
 
“It’s important for us to understand that we need to teach … diabetes and heart failure should be looked at as 2 sides of 1 coin and that the patient should be more carefully taken care of regarding diagnosis and treatment,” Seferović said.
 
Luckily, this is an exciting time for new diabetes treatments, particularly those that aim to improve cardiovascular outcomes. While lifestyle modification, smoking cessation, and blood pressure and cholesterol control are all important, so is glucose control, and Seferović outlined diabetes treatments to lower A1C and what has been shown about their impact on cardiovascular risks.
 
Insulin has been associated with an increased incidence of heart failure and a higher mortality, and thiazolidinediones have shown to worsen heart failure risk, and should not be used, Seferović explained. However, metformin, which is frequently used and cheap, is linked with favorable cardiovascular outcomes.
 
Of the newer medications, dipeptidyl peptidase 4 inhibitors, such as sitagliptin, are not recommended in patients with heart failure, while liraglutide, a glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist, has shown reduced death from cardiovascular causes and all causes, as well a reduction in hospitalizations from heart failure, Seferović said.
 
The really interesting area, though, is the sodium-glucose co-transporter-2 inhibitors, namely empagliflozin. The EMPA-REG trial “was important and caused a lot of excitement,” he said, because it was the first trial that showed improved cardiovascular outcomes in patients with diabetes.
 
“Cardiologists are happy to see the hospitalization for heart failure be less in patients,” Seferović said.
 
Another comorbidity that is important to consider is sleep apnea. Martin R. Cowie, MD, MSc, FRCP, FESC, of Imperial College London, explained that patients with sleep apnea have a decreased quality of life stemming from fatigue and sleepiness during the day, which can impact their work hours. The leading treatment is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), but the jury is still out on how it affects patients with cardiovascular disease.
 
A small randomized trial in patients with obstructive sleep apnea had found there was no difference in cardiovascular disease outcomes, but patients were less sleepy, had improved mental health, fewer work days lost, and better quality of life.
 
However, in patients with central sleep apnea (CSA), which is slightly different and not marked by sleepiness during the day, there isn’t a physical obstruction that prevents someone from breathing normally—instead, the brain doesn’t send the right signals to the muscles controlling breathing.
 
In a large study using CPAP in patients with CSA, the researchers found that there were more cardiovascular events, as well as some evidence of an increased cardiovascular death rate. According to Cowie, current therapies for CSA haven’t been able to reduce risks of heart failure, but more importantly, it isn’t worth the risk to try treating CSA for patients with heart failure.
 
The take away, Cowie said, is to “treat the heart failure as best as you can; don’t try to treat the sleep apnea.”
 


 
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