New research could help people with hidden heart disease

3 September 2018        

Category: Research

Man with medicine

Researchers at the University of Aberdeen are working to identify people with the lung condition chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who may also have an undiagnosed heart condition.

COPD is a long-term lung condition that can cause severe breathing difficulties, and many people diagnosed with the condition also have some forms of heart disease, although they may not be aware that they have heart problems.

Beta blockers are often used to treat people with coronary heart disease, irregular heart rhythms and heart failure. Researchers are currently investigating whether, in people living with COPD, beta blockers may prevent sudden deterioration in their breathing. Dr Dana Dawson and her team at the University of Aberdeen have been awarded £299,169 by the BHF to lead a three-year clinical study to investigate whether the people with COPD who benefit from beta blockers have a hidden, undiagnosed heart condition.

Cardiac imaging

The heart researchers will study a group of 900 people with COPD and try to identify hidden heart conditions using cardiac imaging in people that benefit from beta blocker treatment. They will also try to identify markers that could indicate which patients could benefit from beta blockers treatment using a combination of blood tests and echocardiogram – which uses sounds waves to build up a picture of the heart.

Dr Dawson explains: “Through this study, we hope to show that beta blockers can relieve symptoms in people with COPD because they are in fact treating an underlying heart condition. This will ensure that, in future, people with COPD who are suffering from frequent breathing problems will be tested for underlying heart disease, and prescribed the best treatment.”

James Cant, Director of BHF Scotland, said: “COPD can be devastating for patients and their families and this project will help to identify more effective treatments in people who also have undiagnosed heart diseases. We’re delighted to be funding this pioneering research at the University of Aberdeen, which is only possible thanks to the generosity of our supporters.”

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