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Clinton's Recent Surgery Prompts Focus on Treating Heart Disease

Former President Bill Clinton's heart surgery last winter has prompted a renewed focus on treating heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women in the United States and Europe. Over 500,000 American women die of the disease each year - twice the number of deaths from all cancer combined. In February 2010, Clinton, who has a history of heart disease, underwent a procedure to procedure to insert stents to widen narrowed his coronary arteries. The procedure is common, according to the American Heart Association, with over 70% of coronary angioplasty procedures including stenting.

Coronary angioplasty is a procedure that involves placing a catheter with a small balloon on its tip into the patient's narrowed artery under angiographic guidance. When properly positioned, the balloon is inflated and deflated, moving the plaque build-up further against the artery wall and thereby improving the flow of blood. This procedure may also be called percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PCTA), coronary artery balloon dilation or balloon angioplasty. Coronary angioplasty may be followed by stenting, a procedure in which a stent (expandable wire mesh tube) is permanently inserted into the artery to keep it open and restore normal blood flow.

Stents can reclose over time, although recent medical advances have improved the effectiveness of the procedure.  In contrast to bare-metal stents, newer stents, called drug-eluting stents, are coated with drugs that help keep the blood vessel from reclosing. Regardless of the type of stent used, patients must take anti-clotting medicines after their procedure.

The American Heart Association reports the following statistics:

  • Over 70 percent of coronary angioplasty procedures also include stenting.
  • In 2006, about 65% of PCTA procedures were performed on men, and about 50% were performed on people age 65 or older.
  • In 2006, approximately 76% of stents implanted during angioplasty were drug-eluting, compared with 24% of bare-metal stents.
  • In 2006, there were 652,000 angioplasty procedures with stents – 425,000 in men, 227,000 in women.

Even with heart disease surgeries such as angioplasty, lifestyle changes must also be made to help reduce the chances of further heart problems. Lifestyle changes that may help treat heart disease include:

  • changing to a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol
  • exercising regularly
  • losing weight if overweight or obese quitting smoking
  • minimizing stress

Additional Resources and References