Blood Health Awareness and Management in the Spotlight

A recent insert published March 18 in the Washington Post put a spotlight on blood health awareness. The piece highlights treatment options for living with atrial fibrillation (AFib), patient blood management and the need to approach surgical blood use from a patient-focused perspective, reducing the risk of needing a transfusion, blood clot awareness, and finding the best treatment for prevention.

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AFib is an irregular, rapid heartbeat that affects more than 2.5 million Americans and, if untreated, can cause blood clots and a stroke, explains Richard J. Kovacs, MD, FACC, chair of the ACC's Anticoagulation Initiative. Kovacs notes that the latest scientific research recommends prescribing anticoagulation therapy for AFib patients with moderate or high risk factors for stroke, and that for nearly 60 years, warfarin was the only option for anticoagulation therapy. However, three new oral anticoagulants – dabigatran, rivaroxaban and apixaban – have recently been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for prevention of stroke due to AFib. "But the new drugs are not without risk … all anticoagulants increase the risk of bleeding," notes Kovacs. "Patients [should] work with their physicians to select the anticoagulation management strategy that has the best balance of risks and benefits for reducing their individual risk of stroke due to AFib," he adds.

"[Since] the risks and benefits of anticoagulants vary depending on the individual … patients should ask if any of their existing medications interact with the anticoagulation therapy options and how their age, gender, and family history impacts their risk for the different anticoagulants," notes JoAnne M. Foody, MD, FACC, editor-in-chief of CardioSmart, and medical director of the Cardiovascular Wellness Center and Pollin Cardiovascular Wellness Program at Brigham and Women's Hospital. "Preexisting medical conditions like heart failure, hypertension, diabetes and vascular disease are also risk factors to consider when determining treatment options."

Emphasizing the importance of effective clinician/patient communication, Suzanne Hughes, MSN, RN, member of the ACC's Cardiovascular Care Team Section and clinical education project director at the Preventative Cardiovascular Nurses Association, notes that communication "is critical [for] the safe management of patients taking antiplatelet and/or anticoagulant medications." Hughes explains that clinicians should leverage high-quality, evidence-based, patient-friendly education materials to supplement face-to-face education.

Stressing the importance of hematology research, Janis L. Abkowitz, MD, president of the American Society of Hematology, writes that "hematology advances also help patients with other types of cancers, heart disease, and stroke. For example, blood thinners effectively treat or prevent blood clots and strokes. Death rates from heart attacks are reduced by new forms of anticlotting drugs. Stem cell transplantation can cure inherited metabolic disorders, and gene therapy holds the promise of effectively treating hereditary disease." Abkowitz calls for an increased public awareness about blood diseases and support for federal funding for research to lead to continued scientific advances in the field.

Clinical Topics: Anticoagulation Management, Arrhythmias and Clinical EP, Heart Failure and Cardiomyopathies, Prevention, EP Basic Science, Novel Agents, Acute Heart Failure, Hypertension

Keywords: Washington, Morpholines, Warfarin, Risk Factors, Genetic Therapy, Health Promotion, beta-Alanine, Benzimidazoles, United States Food and Drug Administration, Pyridones, Risk Assessment, Hypertension, United States, Stroke, Neoplasms, Hematology, Electric Countershock, Vascular Diseases, Pyrazoles, Awareness, Stem Cell Transplantation, Hematologic Diseases, Pharmaceutical Preparations, Heart Failure, Diabetes Mellitus

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