Death Risk for Diastolic Dysfunction

A new study about diastolic dysfunction

heart vascular health line art

Diastolic dysfunction (DD) is dangerous.  That’s the conclusion of a new study co-authored by Wael Jaber, MD, of the Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute.  DD has long been associated with pulmonary hypertension, pulmonary edema, and valve disease. This new study shows that individuals with DD have increased risk of death, even if their systolic function is normal and they have no other cardiovascular impairments. The study (in the July Archives of Internal Medicine) suggests that “an increased awareness of the clinical significance of advanced DD may lead to earlier identification of those patients who are at risk, especially at a preclinical stage.”

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What does this study mean for patients?  TheBeatingEdge (TBE) correspondent Olivia Crandall contacted Dr. Jaber to find out.

TBE: Could you please explain diastolic dysfunction in layman’s terms?
Dr. Jaber: It’s the ability of the heart to relax after each beat.  When the heart is not able to relax fast enough, it is called diastolic dysfunction.

What should the average patient think of the results of the study?
Before, when a patient would come in with abnormal heart relaxation, the meaning or risk of this was unknown.  Now we know that abnormal relaxation (diastolic dysfunction) is not an innocent bystander.  It translates into higher death rates and should not be ignored.

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 Is there a cause for diastolic dysfunction?
Diastolic dysfunction is linked to excessive weight, limited physical activity (a sedentary lifestyle), diabetes, and age (the heart becomes less efficient at relaxing as we get older).

 What should a patient watch for?
When they come in to get an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) after experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, they should ask about both pumping AND relaxation

 Any advice to help or prevent diastolic dysfunction?
First, the patient should check with a cardiologist for the cause of the abnormal relaxation.  It may be a manifestation of other problems that could be brewing.  Second, they should take steps such as losing weight, controlling blood pressure, managing diabetes, and exercising more frequently.

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