Study finds invasive heart procedures less effective for longer lives

The American Heart Association conference, held in Philadelphia this year.
Photo credit Antionette Lee/KYW Newsradio
By KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Thousands of doctors and healthcare professionals came to Philadelphia for the 2019 American Heart Association conference this weekend.

This happened just as a groundbreaking study was announced related to heart surgeries.

"This is a really important study that people have waited a long time to get the answer," said Dr. Robert Harrington, president of the American Heart Association. "They've been working on this for over seven or eight years."

It's called the ISCHEMIA trial. Harrington explained how the federally funded study worked.

"Everybody in the study got medical therapy," he said. "The addition of the procedure did not lower your risk of having a heart attack or dying, but the addition of the procedure did lower your risk of chest pain."

"Procedure" refers to invasive treatment, such as a stent or bypass surgery. In other words, if you have chest pain due to blocked arteries, those procedures can relieve the pain and improve quality of life, but it doesn't actually help you live longer. 

"There does not seem to a be a benefit with regard to improving longevity of life," added Harrington, "avoiding heart attacks, avoiding strokes by having the more aggressive therapy."

What doctors call medical therapy includes cutting out smoking, taking medications, eating a healthy diet, and active exercise--about a half-hour each day five days a week--which proved to be more useful for a healthy heart. Based on the study, doctors recommended all of those, plus medicine, to reduce the risk of a heart attack.

"So for city dwellers here in Philadelphia, just gettin out there at lunch time before work, walking for 30 minutes is awesome for your heart," recommended Harrington.

Of course, talk to your healthcare provider about what's best for you.