Circulation September 26, 2017 Issue

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Dr. Carolyn Lam: Welcome to Circulation on the Run, your weekly podcast summary and backstage pass to the journal and its editors. I'm Dr. Carolyn Lam, Associate Editor from the National Heart Center and Duke National University of Singapore. Our featured discussion today centers on new data from the Framingham Heart Study that addresses the question of the prognosis of pre-hypertension among individuals who never progressed to hypertension as well as the role of early versus late onset pre-hypertension in this context. Well, more soon, right after your summary of this week's journal.

The first original paper provides mechanistic insights on the relationship between low and oscillatory wall shear stress, together known as disturbed flow, and atherosclerotic arterial remodeling and stiffness. Co-first authors doctors Kim and Pokutta-Paskaleva, co-corresponding authors Dr. Brewster and Jo from Georgia Institute of Technology in Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia used a novel mirroring model of disturbed blood flow to stimulate arterial stiffening through collagen deposition in young mice. They discovered a critical role for Thrombospondin 1, or TSP1 in activating TGF beta and stimulating arterial stiffening, all of which was significantly attenuated in the TSP1 knockout animal.

Blockade of TSP1 activation of TGF beta decreased the up regulation of pro-fibrotic genes that contributed to arterial stiffening. Furthermore, they show that TSP1 localized to regions of disturbed flow in arteries from patients with peripheral artery disease and these arteries had similar increases in collagen gene expression. Thus, this work links TSP1 up regulation to arterial stiffening and identifies TSP1 as an important promoter of pathologic arterial remodeling in peripheral artery disease.

The next study provides international insights on the degree to which secondary prevention treatment goals are achieved in clinical practice among patients with diabetes and cardiovascular disease. First and corresponding author, Dr. Pagidipati from Duke Clinical Research Institute at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina, looked at 13,616 patients from 38 countries with diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the TECOS trial. They found that only 30 percent of patients met all 5 secondary parameters of aspirin use, lipid control, blood pressure control, angiotensin-converting enzyme-inhibitor, or ARBUs, and non-smoking status.

Only 58 percent of individuals with diabetes and cardiovascular disease attained blood pressure control. Furthermore, the degree to which secondary prevention goals were met in this trial varied by the world region and country. In summary, patients with diabetes and cardiovascular disease are still being undertreated globally with respect to secondary prevention, and especially with regard to blood pressure control. These gaps in care provide clear opportunities for improvement in this high risk population.

The next study is the first to directly compare data from an electronic data research network to a large cardiovascular disease cohort. First author Dr. Ahmed, corresponding author Dr. Allen from Northwestern University in Chicago and colleagues sought to evaluate the degree of agreement of electronic data research networks compared with data collected by standardized research approaches in a cohort study. To achieve this goal, authors linked individual level data from the multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis, or MESA community based cohort with Healthlink, a 2006 to 2012 database of electronic health records from 6 Chicago health systems.

They identified areas of agreement and disagreement between blood pressure, cardiovascular risk factor diagnosis, and cardiovascular events between the two data sources. The correlation was low for systolic blood pressure, compared with MESA, Healthlink overestimated systolic blood pressure by 6.5mm mercury. Conversely, there was a high correlation between body mass index in MESA and Healthlink. Healthlink underestimated body mass index by 0.3 kilograms per meters square.

Using ICD-9 codes and clinical data, the sensitivity and specificity for Healthlink queries for hypertension were 82.4 percent and 59.4 percent. For obesity these figures were 73 percent for sensitivity and 89.8 percent for specificity and for diabetes they were 79.8 percent for sensitivity and 93.3 percent for specificity.

Finally compared with adjudicated events in MESA, the concordance rates for myocardial infarction, stroke, and heart failure were at 41.7 percent, 61.5 percent, and 62.5 percent, respectively. These findings therefore illustrate the limitations and strengths of electronic data repositories compared with information collected by traditional standardized epidemiologic approaches for the ascertainment of cardiovascular risk factors and events.

The next paper helps physicians and patients to make an informed decision about whether or not to stop low dose aspirin use. First and corresponding author Dr. Sundstrom from Uppsala University in Sweden and colleagues investigated whether long term low dose aspirin discontinuation increased the risk of cardiovascular events in a cohort study of more than 600,000 users of low dose aspirin for primary or secondary prevention in the Swedish prescription register between 2005 and 2009.

They found that patients who discontinued aspirin had a 37 percent higher rate of cardiovascular events than those who continued, corresponding to an additional cardiovascular event observed per year in one out of every 74 patients who discontinued aspirin. The risk increased shortly after discontinuation and did not appear to diminish over time. Thus, in long term users, discontinuation of low dose aspirin in the absence of major surgery or bleeding seemed to be associated with a more than 30 percent increased risk of cardiovascular events, thus adherence to low dose aspirin treatment in the absence of major surgery or bleeding may be an important treatment goal.

The final study raises the possibility of using Histone Methyltransferase Inhibitors for the treatment of heart failure. Dr. Papait from Humanitas Clinical and Research Center in Italy and colleagues focused on G9A, a histone methyltransferase that defines a repressive epigenetic signature. Using normal and stressed cardiomyocytes from a conditional cardiac specific G9A knockout mouse, and a specific G9A inhibitor, they showed that the histone methyltransferase G9A was important in defining the epigenetic landscape that maintained the transcription program of the cardiomyocyte. It was also important for the regulation of gene expression reprogramming during cardiac hypertrophy.

Furthermore, impaired G9A function promoted cardiac dysfunction. Thus, these findings suggest that G9A may represent a therapeutic target for early stages of cardiac hypertrophy.

That wraps it up for your summaries, now for our feature discussion.

For today's feature discussion, we're talking about the very important topic of the prognosis of prehypertension without progression to hypertension. Now, we've always known that mild blood pressure elevations that we call prehypertension are associated with cardiovascular risk. However, this risk could be attributable to the fact that these patients with prehypertension eventually progress to overt hypertension. But, what happens to the patients with prehypertension who do not progress to hypertension, and what is the role of early versus late onset prehypertension?

Well, we have some answers today and I am so pleased to have the first and corresponding author with us, Dr. Teemu Niiranen, from Boston University's Framingham Heart Study. Welcome, Teemu.

Dr. Teemu Niiranen: Thank you very much, great to be here.

Dr. Carolyn Lam: And to help us along in this discussion, we have a familiar voice. Dr. Wanpen Vongpatanasin, associate editor from UT Southwestern. Welcome back, Wanpen.

Dr. Wanpen Vongpatanasin: Thank you Carolyn. Happy to be here.

Dr. Carolyn Lam: Teemu, you know, I sort of set the background that you so nicely articulated in this research letter, but could you tell us a little bit more of what you were looking at, how you did it, and what you found?

Dr. Teemu Niiranaen: My boss, Dr. Vasan, was also a coauthor in this paper, he already showed some 15 years ago that prehypertension carries greater cardiovascular risk than perfectly normal blood pressure. However, it's pretty much unclear what happens to people who are prehypertension but never go on to develop hypertension because even the name suggests that if you have prehypertension you will get hypertension. We also looked at what effect does the age of developing prehypertension and hypertension have in this context.

We used a case cohort setting in the Framingham Heart Study in the way that we only looked at 5 1/2 thousand decedents. These were people who had already passed away. Then we categorized those decedents into 5 categories, people who never got prehypertension or hypertension, people who developed prehypertension late in life, who never developed hypertension, and people who developed early onset prehypertension but never developed hypertension, and then people who went on to develop late or early onset hypertension. We used a cutoff of 55 years as the definition of early onset versus late onset.

Then, in a case cohort setting, we estimated case versus controls, adjusted case versus control odds ratios, for the 4 prehypertension/hypertension categories versus those who died without ever developing prehypertension.

Dr. Carolyn Lam: Teemu, could I just stop you here before you share the intriguing results. I just wanted to remark that it's so amazing how the Framingham Heart Study really enables analysis like this, simply because of the long follow up and just the great detail and the standardization of blood pressure measurements and so on. I mean, as I said, I worked at the Framingham Heart Center, and we were trained to do this in a standardized fashion.

Define prehypertension and hypertension, just in case, and then please tell us your results.

Dr. Teemu Niiranaen: Prehypertension was 120 to 135 systolic blood pressure, and a diastolic blood pressure of 80 to 89 millimeters mercury, and then hypertension was 140 over 90 millimeters mercury, or antihypertensive medication, and yes, your correct that the Framingham Heart Study provides a very unique setting. Especially for defining early versus late onset hypertension because we can define the age of hypertension or prehypertension or prehypertension onset objectively because these people have been followed up, they have attended so many exams, especially the original cohorts.

But, to the results, so we observed that basically people who develop prehypertension, either early and especially late in life, but did not ever develop hypertension, their risk, or odds of dying of cardiovascular disease versus non-cardiovascular disease was pretty much similar to those who never develop prehypertension or hypertension, while conversely the people who went on to develop either late or especially early onset hypertension, or developed early onset hypertension they had considerably greater risk of cardiovascular death versus those who developed either prehypertension or hypertension. That's our main result. I won't go into conclusions yet.

Dr. Carolyn Lam: Okay, but maybe at this point, I could ask Wanpen to share some thoughts. I mean, this is very striking findings. Curious what you think the clinical implications were, and especially as we discussed among the editors.

Dr. Wanpen Vongpatanasin: It is very important study that, as Teemu outlined it, to look at the fate of people with prehypertension and I think that's the first time we had this kind of data to show whether the earlier versus late prehypertension and even hypertension itself. I don't think people have looked at in the large number in terms of outcome people who have early versus late onset hypertension. I found the result to be fascinating.

Dr. Carolyn Lam: Yeah, what does this mean though when we see a patient with this sort of borderline hypertension, you know, falling in the prehypertension range. We don't know whether they're going to develop hypertension. What do you think the clinical implications are? Teemu?

Dr. Teemu Niiranaen: Unfortunately a lot of the people who develop prehypertension as the name suggests they go on to develop hypertension, but there is still a considerably great part that never develop hypertension, and our study shows basically that if you are able as a doctor or a patient to prevent progression to hypertension you are much better off and this really hasn't been previously shown, so it just should motivate patients and also doctors to strive to, if they see a prehypertensive individual, try to through lifestyle and other interventions try to prevent the progression to hypertension.

Dr. Carolyn Lam: Yeah, I think that was one of the take home messages for sure. Were there any other plans for future work you think that needs to be done?

Dr. Teemu Niiranaen: There's the everlasting problem with observational studies, so definitely it would be great if our results could be taken into clinical trials or anything to test whether interventions, A, that preventing the progression from prehypertension to hypertension could then impact cardiovascular outcomes.

Dr. Carolyn Lam: Indeed, and if I may comment, I've always wondered about ethnic differences when it comes to this. The one thing that Framingham, you know, it's difficult to see from there, is what happens in other ethnicities other than white ethnicities, isn't it? Still, very striking findings. Wanpen did you have any other comments or questions from Teemu?

Dr. Wanpen Vongpatanasin: Well, I think that one thing also that's interesting to me is even the people who had early onset prehypertension, although the number of CHD deaths were not significant, but the odds still 28 percent higher than the control that will never have prehypertension so, I think that that the signal is there but perhaps because the number of people who had prehypertension but never really progress to prehypertension is relatively small. It could be underpowered to see the significance and I think that from this study, it tells me that the exposure to blood pressure to our life, I think is the blood pressure lowered on the cardiovascular system, I think that's the one that really determine the cardiovascular outcome the most. I think that we should not discount that this is not a truly benign phenomenon, I think hopefully they'll be some more data from the Framingham group or other group.

Also, I think that this study also very important to show that early onset hypertension actually have the worst prognosis, and often time when people come to see a doctor when they're 30 and 40 years old, they don't really want to take medicine, and the physician often time are reluctant to prescribe the drug, and I think that this study say that we probably need to be a little bit more serious about it, because they actually have the most cardiovascular events.

Dr. Carolyn Lam: What excellent points, and you know what? At this point I just want to highlight that beautiful figure that you have in your research letter, Teemu. I think it says it all. It highlights that point estimate for the prehypertension groups is not exactly 1. If anything, it is above 1, right? For the odds of poor outcomes, so I do take Wanpen's point as well. Beautiful figures, and I also actually want to use that to ask you a different question Teemu. You have 1 figure, because this is a research letter that only allows 1 figure and 800 words, and you've put so much important information into that space. I'd love for you to share that experience with our listeners too, of a research letter versus a full paper. Why did you choose to submit yours as a research letter, and how was that?

Dr. Teemu Niiranaen: One of the important take home messages from this was the differences between early onset versus late onset hypertension that we'd been also recently publishing on, so we wanted to delve more in depth on this prognosis of prehypertension versus hypertension so we don't have to be repetitive too much. We decided to focus on this very small topic most intensively, therefore we decided that maybe a research letter would be the most effective way so we could communicate all the really novel stuff that we have in just one figure. Well, it has 3 panels, but it still counts as 1 figure.

I just wanted to point out that maybe the early onset prehypertension, yeah the confidence intervals are somewhat wide, but the panels sees for coronary heart disease versus non-cardiovascular disease deaths, so that's maybe a bit more underpowered than the back panel B, so the CHD deaths are part of the CBD deaths, so with CBD deaths, the early onset prehypertension, the odds ration was 1.09, but still of course the confidence intervals reach up to 1.49. Just to clarify the difference between panel B and panel C, so B's better powered.

Dr. Carolyn Lam: It's a very nice figure, and indeed, I think it works very, very well as a research letter, and I think the fact that we're discussing it right now shows that length doesn't dictate importance. Wanpen you had a few comments about that. What do you think of a research letter format?

Dr. Wanpen Vongpatanasin: Yes, I think this research letter is a really important part of articles in Circulation. I think that all the others should be aware that we're trying to enter at submission if it's suitable, just like this one. It actually show up in the pub med exactly like the full article and gets cited as much and sometimes much more than a regular article because it capture the essence of one more focused problem and the figures and table allow to show only one or two at a time, so they really capture the essence or the guts of the article and the reader can go through that quickly and grasp the concept and learn within flipping through a few pages.

I think we should have many more interesting research letter like this.

Dr. Carolyn Lam: Congratulations again Teemu for a beautiful paper, a very important one. Thank you Wanpen for shepherding this one.

And thank you listeners for joining us today. Don't forget to tune in again next week.

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