Health Buzz: New Anti-Clot Drug Could Help Heart Patients

Don't dismiss these 5 stroke symptoms; 6 ways to avoid dying of a surprise heart attack.

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New Anti-Clot Drug Shows Promise for Heart Patients

A new blood thinner could help prevent strokes among people with an irregular heartbeat. Patients with atrial fibrillation—who commonly experience strokes due to blood clots—typically take warfarin, a drug that requires strict supervision, since food and other medications can interfere with it. But researchers say a newer drug called rivaroxaban is as effective as warfarin, without the need for such close monitoring. The findings, based on a trial of more than 14,000 patients who took either warfarin or rivaroxaban, appear today in the New England Journal of Medicine. Though the new drug was approved last month to prevent clots in patients undergoing knee or hip replacement surgery, it hasn't yet been OK'd as an anti-stroke drug for people with atrial fibrillation (it's expected to be green-lighted in September). Rivaroxaban "will be game-changing for all of us that treat atrial fibrillation," Kousik Krishnan, an associate professor of medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, told HealthDay.

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  • 5 Symptoms You Need to Know to Recognize a Stroke Immediately

    Minimizing the time between the onset of a stroke and the start of stroke treatment is critical for surviving the brain attack and minimizing the resulting brain injury. The key is to immediately get to the emergency room for a brain scan to detect which type of stroke has hit. If it's ischemic—caused by a blood clot—the best treatment is a clot-dissolving drug called tissue plasminogen activator, or TPA, and the quicker the treatment, the less the disabling damage. Most hospitals will treat stroke patients with TPA only if the medicine can be injected within three hours of the appearance of symptoms, which is why getting to the hospital is such an urgent matter. One study found, however, that TPA can be safe and effective up to 4½ hours after a stroke. Treatment for hemorrhagic stroke, caused by a bleeding vessel in the brain, involves lowering blood pressure and reducing swelling in the brain, U.S. News reported in 2009.

    Stroke can present itself with a range of symptoms, but the consistent factor is that they come on suddenly. Call 911 immediately if you, or someone you're with, experience any of the following:

    Numbness or weakness, particularly on one side of the body. This can be in the face, an arm, or a leg. If someone you're with appears to be experiencing this, ask the person to smile, lift both arms, or move both legs, the National Stroke Association recommends. If one side of the body doesn't respond, it may be a sign of stroke. [Read more: 5 Symptoms You Need to Know to Recognize a Stroke Immediately.]

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    • 6 Ways to Avoid Dying of a Surprise Heart Attack

      Even knowing someone's risk factors for heart disease, it's often tough to pinpoint who will actually go on to get the disease, U.S. News reported in 2008. And once blood flow to the heart muscle is blocked and a heart attack happens, it's not exactly clear why some people experience sudden cardiac arrest, and others don't. Those uncertainties, however, don't mean that you are powerless to protect yourself from dying of a heart attack. Here are steps to take to improve your odds:

      First, follow the standard prevention guidelines. The American Heart Association has three basic tips for preventing heart disease, stroke, and heart attack: Don't smoke, be more active, and make good nutritional choices. This is good general health advice, regardless of your heart disease risk.

      Exercise is also important. "Exercise raises good cholesterol and lowers bad cholesterol," says Rob Michler, director and chairman of heart surgery at the Montefiore-Einstein Heart Center in New York. Worrying that exercise is going to give you a heart attack is not a valid excuse for skipping it; while it's true that exercise raises your odds of a heart attack in the moment, the long-term benefits vastly outstrip this short-term risk. Still, check with your doctor first if you're obese, have health problems, or haven't exercised in years. [Read more: 6 Ways to Avoid Dying of a Surprise Heart Attack.]