By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Cardiovascular diseases kill and hospitalize millions of people worldwide each year. This makes them an important disease entity that has garnered large amounts of research.
Initial studies on cardiovascular health
Initial studies on cardiovascular health were performed in 1949 by Jerry Morris. He gathered occupational data for years before publishing his results in 1958. The causes, prevention, and/or treatment of all forms of cardiovascular disease are active fields for biomedical research. Hundreds of such studies are published weekly in hundreds of journals worldwide.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) is an organization that supports cardiovascular research and aims at preventing and treating heart, lung, and blood diseases. The research grants are aimed at exploring the effects of heart diseases on men and women, the possible strength of risk factors and methods to prevent and treat the disease.
Some of the latest research includes examination of risks of heart attack and its possible recovery and comparison of open-hear surgeries like coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) with angioplasty and stenting in patients who have diabetes and blockages in more than one coronary artery. Studies also compare CABG with medical therapy in patients of heart failure or coronary heart disease.
The effects of diet, exercise, aging and hormones on risk of heart diseases is another interesting area of research. Effects of depression, stress and other mental ailments on heart disease is an area of research. Some researchers are exploring the use of newer imaging and diagnostic techniques in detection of heart diseases.
Some times volunteers are recruited in clinical trials on cardiovascular drugs and interventions. Clinical trials test new ways to prevent, diagnose, or treat various diseases and conditions. There are trials for medicines, medical devices, surgeries, or procedures and these trials show if the new procedure is safe and effective in humans before it is made available for widespread use.
Initial phases of the studies are conducted on small numbers of patients. Those who are willing may enrol themselves for the trials. Patients will have the support of a team of health care providers, who will likely monitor the effects of the new medicine or procedure on their health closely. Even if the patient does not benefit from the results of a clinical trial, the information may help others and add to scientific knowledge.
After patients volunteer for a clinical trial, the research will be explained to them in detail. The pros and cons and the benefits and risks will be explained in understandable terms. This process is called informed consent. Once the patient agrees they would need to sign an informed consent form. The patient has the right to withdraw from a study at any time, for any reason.
Information on clinical trials
Common sites that offer information on clinical trials include:
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)