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Clinical Trials for Heart Disease: What You Need to Know

Clinical trials are how new therapies are approved to treat heart disease. Here’s how and why you should get involved.


By Aisha Langford, Everyday Health

Aspirin and cholesterol-lowering drugs were once tested in clinical trials. Today, these medicines are commonly used to help prevent heart disease. The DASH diet was also evaluated in clinical trials and is widely recommended as a heart-healthy eating plan, especially for people with high blood pressure (hypertension). Pacemakers were made possible through research and help people with abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) live more active lifestyles.

Despite these many advances, questions still remain about how best to treat heart disease, or why heart disease affects some patient populations more than others.

To address that issue, the American Heart Association is collaborating with Verily on Research Goes Red, a new initiative to engage women in scientific research that may one day lead to the treatment and cure of the world’s number one killer.

“Research Goes Red empowers our growing and passionate community of committed and engaged women to share their health information to greatly enhance what we know about women’s heart disease and potentially help prevent it,” says Nancy Brown, chief executive officer of the American Heart Association (AHA).

Historically, clinical studies have not adequately enrolled women or analyzed women-specific heart-health data, even though every year, 1 in 3 deaths of women are due to cardiovascular disease.

“Research drives our diagnosis, it drives our prevention, it drives our treatment, and it drives our understanding,” says Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, cardiologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women volunteer medical expert. “For example, in 2019, we do not have a full understanding of the effects of estrogen on the heart or how pregnancy may affect women’s hearts long-term.”


Different Types of Clinical Trials for Heart Health

When people think of clinical trials, they often think of testing a new drug. Or that clinical trials are only for people who are really sick or dying. This is a myth. There are many types of clinical trials, ranging from prevention to survivorship.

For example:
  • Behavioral trials evaluate or compare ways to promote behavioral changes that are designed to improve heart health.
  • Diagnostic trials study or compare tests or procedures for diagnosing a particular type of heart disease.
  • Prevention trials look for better ways to keep people without a history of heart disease from ever getting it through medication or lifestyle changes.
  • Quality-of-life trials, or supportive care trials, explore and measure ways to improve the comfort and quality of life for people living with heart disease.
  • Screening trials test new ways of detecting heart disease.
  • Treatment trials test new treatments, new combinations of medicines, or new approaches to surgery for heart disease.


Where to Find Clinical Trials for Heart Disease

ClinicalTrials.gov is the largest and most updated place to find clinical trials for heart disease. People can also find heart disease–specific clinical trials on the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website or the American Heart Association website.

“Finding out about clinical trials — whether you’re sick or healthy — is important because the more information we get that’s gender specific, the better chance we have of fighting heart disease,” says Dr. Steinbaum.

For example, the impact of depression on developing heart disease is greater in women compared with men. And being African-American increases a woman’s risk of developing heart disease compared with other racial or ethnic groups. It is not fully understood why these differences exist. But future research may provide more insight.

For both men and women, Steinbaum notes that past research has led to changes in the blood pressure and cholesterol guidelines. “Controlling blood pressure and cholesterol are two important ways to help prevent heart disease.”
Heart Health,Heart Disease

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