Keeping you up to date on recent headlines in cardiovascular healthcare:

'Half man, half machine' now lives 'smooth life' ... A man that lived as a self-described "half man, half machine" says he is living a 'smooth life' after receiving a heart transplant last year. Prior to his transplant, Andrzej Bielak lived with a SynCardia (Tucson, Arizona) temporary CardioWest Total Artificial Heart, a device he says kept him alive until a donor heart was available. In 2006, Bielak suffered a heart attack that left his heart muscle severely damaged. Doctors told him that if he didn't get a heart transplant, he would have only months to live. Bielak slipped into a coma for 12 weeks and no donor heart became available. To save his life, on Nov. 20, 2006, doctors decided to implant the Total Artificial Heart. According to SynCardia, Bielak's health improved "dramatically" over the next month and he was discharged from the hospital on Dec. 22, using a portable driver to power his artificial heart. He returned home to Backnang, Germany to wait for his matching donor heart. He said the Total Artificial Heart allowed him to enjoy an independent, high-quality life while waiting for the transplant, which he finally received in May 2008. "Today, I live a smooth life," Bielak said in a statement prepared by SynCardia.

CARE follow-up links CIN with long-term events ... PLC Systems (Franklin, Massachusetts), a company focused on cardiac and vascular medical device-based technologies, reported that a follow-up study of the landmark Cardiac Angiography in Renally Impaired Patients (CARE) study determined that Contrast-Induced Nephropathy (CIN) is associated with long-term adverse events, ranging from pulmonary edema to death, and that patients with CIN were twice as likely as those who did not develop CIN to experience adverse events. The study was published in the June 25, 2009 issue of the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. This study, authored by Richard Solomon, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, followed more than 70% of the original subjects of the CARE study. Solomon is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for PLC and is one of the principal investigators for the company's pivotal trial for RenalGuard in the U.S. The device is currently the subject of a trial to study its efficacy in mitigating against CIN at the University of Milan-Centro Cardiologico Monzino. This trial is designed to assess RenalGuard compared to standard overnight hydration, a prevalent method of treatment in the EU, in preventing CIN in patients undergoing cardiac catheterization procedures and percutaneous coronary interventions with baseline impairment in renal function.

Exercise prior to stroke equals faster recovery ... Researchers from Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, who led a national study, say that a person who has exercised regularly prior to the onset of a stroke appears to recover more quickly. In the July 2009 issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, the researchers reported that stroke patients who had previously exercised regularly before a stroke occurred were significantly more likely to have milder impairments and, thus, were better able to care for themselves, compared to patients who rarely exercised. "It appears that exercise is very beneficial to people at risk of developing a stroke," says Mayo Clinic neurologist James Meschia, MD, the study's lead investigator. "Many studies have shown that exercise can reduce the risk of developing a stroke in the first place, and this study suggests that if an active person does have a stroke, outcomes can be improved." He cautions, however, that a larger study is needed to validate these findings, because this study depended on recall from 673 people who had a stroke. A new study could also help clarify whether moderate or vigorous exercise is necessary to improve outcomes, he says. Of the 673 patients enrolled, 50.5% reported that prior to their stroke, they exercised less than once a week, 28.5% exercised one to three times a week, and 21% reported aerobic physical activity four times a week or more.

Heart disease on the rise in Canadians under 50 ... Cardiovascular disease is increasing in adults younger than 50 and those of lower socioeconomic status, despite recent trends which show that cardiovascular disease is declining in Canada overall, say researchers at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (Toronto, Ontario). Untreated cardiovascular disease can lead to heart failure, coronary artery disease and death, and is the most common cause of hospitalization in North America. By exploring national trends in heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and smoking prevalence from 1994-2005, researchers found that cardiovascular disease is on the rise in adults under 50 and those of lower socioeconomic status according to a study published in the July edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal. "Our results indicate that young people are increasingly bearing the burden of cardiovascular risk factors," says Douglas Lee, MD, cardiologist and scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (also Toronto). "This is an important group because they are the ones who will predict future heart disease, and earlier onset of cardiovascular disease means potentially longer and more intense treatment over their lifetime." The study, called "Trends in risk factors for cardiovascular disease in Canada: temporal, socio-demographic and geographic factors," sampled Canadians aged 12 years and older from all socioeconomic and ethnic groups. The prevalence of heart disease and diabetes is rising fastest among Canadians of lower socioeconomic status, who also tend to have the highest cardiovascular risk profiles. The prevalence of hypertension and obesity is increasing in nearly all Canadians, but is rising fastest in those with higher incomes.

— Compiled by Amanda Pedersen, MDD