“With a heart attack, there is no reverse gear”

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Head of Cardiology at Ramón y Cajal Hospital in Madrid, member of the European Society of Cardiology and Scientific Advisor to Best Doctors, Prof. José Luis Zamorano tells us …about the latest advances in the field, the importance of technology, the increasing presence of healthcare services in our daily lives and the use of “smart” drugs programmed to work directly on a specific target.

An interview with Prof. José Luis Zamorano

Is the heart forever doomed to be a leading cause of death? Are humans just designed that way?

Heart conditions are responsible for 35% of deaths around the world, which means 1 out of every 3 people. We know the heart well enough in order to be able to better prevent cardiovascular diseases. There is room for improvement and we need to act on that.

a photo of Prof. José Luis Zamorano

So since it is one of the main causes of death, shouldn’t heart conditions be one of the fundamental research objectives for all countries?

Research hasn’t stopped. What is more, it is fed from work carried out in other areas.

What would you highlight as the main innovations in cardiology in recent years?

Cardiology is constantly advancing. For example, 3 and even 4D imaging can now make a diagnosis even before symptoms appear in patients. We are also seeing huge advances in interventional, or non-invasive, techniques, such as heart valve replacement without the need for surgery. And of course there are major therapeutic advances, such as the new anticoagulant and cholesterol-lowering drugs.

And what about the most revolutionary innovations on the horizon?

We’re going to start seeing “smart” drugs based on technology research. Good examples are monoclonal antibodies. We can actually give them a treatment target and are really very effective.

Speaking of research, is the focus in cardiology on genetics as much as it is in other specialties, such as oncology?  

Genetics do play a significant role. A patient’s family history is very important, as some families do have a greater incidence of heart conditions.

Are there any currently incurable conditions that will be curable in the foreseeable future?

Yes, for sure. But when it comes to the heart, we need to keep one thing very clear: a heart attack is incurable, essentially the death of cells in a certain area of the heart. There is no reverse gear. Therefore we need to know our own cardiovascular risk, our risk factors and work really hard to reduce our risk. Prevention is essential.

On an individual level, how can we lower our risk?

In order to take better care of your heart, you first need to have a good understanding of the risk factors. Only then can you keep these under control. Here are the basics:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Eat healthy and watch your weight: obesity is fast becoming an epidemic in many countries, even among children. It’s one of the heart’s worst enemies.
  • Keep an eye on your blood pressure: as a general rule, blood pressure should be under 140/90 mmHG
  • Take extra care if you are diabetic.
  • Stay active: a 40-minute walk per day is enough, but you need to be consistent about it.

Another thing that is really making health news at the moment is the idea of wearable health technology. How much do these really contribute from a purely medical point of view?

Anything that means that people will take better care of their health and achieve greater control over their medical conditions is very positive. There is no doubt in my mind that in the very near future there will be a great deal of services providing a multitude of devices dedicated to monitoring our health. Technology is part of our daily lives and it’s here to stay.

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