Education Works to Lower Patients' Heart Risk

Simple intervention kept blood pressure, cholesterol levels down, study found

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WEDNESDAY, Feb. 28, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. researchers say public education and screening programs by pharmacists can help lower rates of metabolic syndrome, a constellation of symptoms known to raise heart disease risk.

Metabolic syndrome includes a number of conditions: high blood pressure, large waist circumference, high fasting glucose (blood sugar) levels, elevated triglycerides, and low blood levels of the "good" cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL). People with three or more of these conditions have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

In this study, a group of pharmacists and pharmacy students held education and screening sessions with 112 people (average age 45) in Little Rock, Ark.

"We did a clinical screening that measured each one of the five risk factors for metabolic syndrome, then sat with each person to talk about their risk and what they could do to lower their overall risk for heart disease," lead author Amy M. Franks, an assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, said in a prepared statement.

"When it was necessary, we referred them to their regular health-care provider to talk about drug therapy or other things they could implement," Franks said.

In the first session, 30 percent of the study participants had metabolic syndrome. Four months after the initial session, 73 of the participants returned to be reassessed, and just 18 percent of them had metabolic syndrome.

The findings were expected to be presented Wednesday at the American Heart Association's annual cardiovascular disease epidemiology and prevention conference, in Orlando, Fla.

Over the four months, the 73 people had average reductions in: total cholesterol -- from 197 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) to 189 mg/dL; systolic (top number) blood pressure -- from 123 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) down to 117 mmHg; and in diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure --- from 79 to 72 mmHg.

The researchers also noted that more of the participants were taking drugs to combat high blood pressure and to lower their blood level of triglycerides.

The findings demonstrate that pharmacists and other health-care providers can reduce metabolic syndrome risk factors by educating patients and making lifestyle recommendations, Franks said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about metabolic syndrome.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Feb. 28, 2007

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