Blood transfusions linked with higher fatality rates of heart attack patients

A recent study published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that patients who have a heart attack and receive a blood transfusion are more likely to die than patients who do not receive a transfusion.

During the study, Saurav Chatterjee, M.D., of Brown University and Providence Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and her colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of 10 studies that were published between January 1966 and March 2012, which involved 203,665 participants.

The advent and use of anticoagulation and antiplatelet drugs after a heart attack has successfully increased the survival rates of patients, but they can cause bleeding, which leads to anemia, subsequently requiring a blood transfusion. The research results indicate that transfusions have been linked to increased fatalities and myocardial infarctions, which occur when the blood flow to the heart is blocked for a prolonged period of time, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The research authors did not report what they believe causes the trend, but an accompanying editorial penned by Jeffrey L. Carson, M.D., of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and Paul C. Hébert, M.D., of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, noted that the study did not provide significant enough evidence to justify reducing the use of blood transfusions. They also wrote that more research needs to be done on the relationship between coronary heart disease and transfusions.

“For researchers and decision makers, we can now appreciate how little reliable information is available to inform clinical and policy decisions involving red blood cell transfusions in patients with acute coronary syndrome. Given that real risks and potential benefits exist as to how we choose to use the valuable resource of blood transfusion, we believe that high-quality research is long overdue,” wrote the editorial authors.

Coronary heart disease
Coronary heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the U.S., develops when the blood vessels that bring blood and oxygen to the heart narrow, according to the NIH. The narrowed arteries are caused by plaque building up.

Some symptoms of coronary heart disease include chest pain (also known as angina) feeling like someone is squeezing the heart, shortness of breath and fatigue. Treatment for the condition includes taking medications to treat or reduce blood pressure, diabetes or cholesterol. Doctors may also order patients to go to a rehabilitation program to improve heart health.

Heart attack prevention
To reduce the risk of suffering from coronary heart disease and subsequently a heart attack, the Mayo Clinic recommends that people abstain from smoking, stay physically active, eat a heart-healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight and reduce stress. Patients who have already suffered one heart attack may be put on angiotensin-converting enzyme  inhibitors, which are conducive to blood flow to the heart and can reduce future complications.

Diet also plays a key role in bolstering heart health and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. The first step in any diet is to reduce portion size and to abstain from eating more than one plateful, which can lead to a higher consumption of calories and fats. People should also eat more fruits and vegetables because they are rich in vitamins and minerals as well as dietary fiber. The source also reports that omega-3 fatty acids are good for the heart. Omega-3s can be found in chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp milk and an Omegakrill supplement from Dr. Newton’s Naturals.