Practice Change & CME

There are many scientific sessions happening around the globe that issue continuous medical education (CME) credits. Although the AHA Scientific Sessions 2018 covered a wide breadth of topics, I took particular interest in how the new Lipid Management Guidelines apply to women. My previous blog ended by citing a clinic encounter with a female patient. When I see how, as a woman cardiologist, I gained a newer perspective on hyperlipidemia, I realize these CME hours don’t capture the actual impact and changes in practice effected by presented data. Most busy clinicians don’t read every page of published guidelines. The lipid guidelines were summarized into ten key take home messages.

These points didn’t include women as a special population. I avail this opportunity to highlight two very different clinic visits: one before AHA Scientific Sessions 2018 & the second soon after it.


October 2018:

This is a 42-year-old female whose cardiovascular risk factors include poorly controlled Type II Diabetes, obesity and hypertension. She suffered an acute inferior myocardial infarction 3 months ago for which primary Percutaneous Intervention was performed with a second-generation drug eluting stent. She was on dual antiplatelet therapy, Lisinopril, Bisoprolol and Atorvastatin 40mg daily. She had not repeated any blood works since discharge (HbA1C 11.1 g/dL & LDL 162 mg/L). Her physical examination was unremarkable aside from weight gain (82 Kg to 85 Kg).

Me: Any chest pain or dyspnea?

She: No

Me: Why did your weight increase?

She: Shrug

Me: Ok I’ll get a dietician and educator to discuss this with you. You need to see your diabetologist. Continue DAPT. We need to drop your LDL, so I’d like to increase the dose of statin.


November 2018:

This is a 45-year-old female whose cardiovascular risk factors include Type II Diabetes, obesity and hypertension. She had a positive myocardial perfusion scan performed for angina. A coronary angiogram revealed non-obstructive coronary artery disease in January 2018. She was on aspirin, oral hypoglycemic agents, Bisoprolol and Atorvastatin 40mg daily. Her HbA1C 8 g/dL & LDL 118 mg/L. Her physical examination was unremarkable (weight 71 Kg).

Me: Any chest pain or dyspnea?

She: No, I’m feeling well.

Me: You’re only 45 years old. How many children do you have? Do you plan on having anymore?

She: Why? Will I have a heart attack if I do?

Me: I’m asking because of the statin. We need to discuss contraception if you aren’t planning anymore or alternatives if you do.

She: How about aspirin? Can I stop it now?

Me: …


As my mentor always told me, “If you don’t know what to look for, you won’t see what you should.” If I wasn’t directed through the AHA Scientific Sessions to search for the topic of women and statin therapy, I would have failed my second patient as I did my first.

But the second encounter sparked a different discussion related to cardiovascular disease prevention in women: What is the role of Aspirin in prevention? This too was discussed at Scientific Sessions 2018.

The Physicians Health Study published in 1989 demonstrated a 44% reduction in myocardial infarctions with aspirin therapy. The evidence for stroke reduction and cardiovascular deaths was inconclusive.1 The Women’s Health Study published in 2005 demonstrated a 17% reduction in stroke.2 This was primarily ischemic with an insignificant increase in hemorrhagic stroke. There was no net effect on fatal and nonfatal myocardial infarctions or overall cardiovascular deaths. The US Preventive Services’ latest statement (see link) recommends low dose aspirin for individuals between 50-59 years with a > 10% 10- year ASCVD risk and a life expectancy of at least 10 years for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer.

Neither of my patients fit the age group; nevertheless, it is worth the pause. Would my second patient qualify in 5 years?

This year three trials on the role of aspirin in prevention were published and all conflict with these recommendations: ASPREE, ASCEND, ARRIVE. ASCEND in particular is relevant to my second patient who is diabetic rendering her ACVD risk > 20%. There was a small reduction in major adverse cardiac events and a significant increase in bleeding.3 How do we reconcile these differences. Subjects in the earlier trials had an important additional risk factor: smoking. The use of statin therapy was also significantly lower in the earlier studies. Perhaps the impact of the two accounts for the conflicting results in the more recent trials.

Is there any role for aspirin in primary prevention? Preliminary data from MESA suggests that high coronary artery calcium score and high plasma lipoprotein (a) may warrant aspirin therapy.4

Scientific Sessions offers CME. However, what we take back to our patients is far more…Aspirin or not, Statin or not, CACs or not. All these were thought provoking discussions this year.


I thank both my patients for consenting to using their information in this blog.



  1. Steering Committee of the Physicians’ Health Study Research Group. N Engl J Med 1989; 321: 129-35
  2. Ridker P, et al. A Randomized Trial of Low-Dose Aspirin in the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Women. N Engl J Med 2005; 352: 1293-1304.
  3. The ASCEND Study Collaborative Group N Engl J Med 2018; 379: 1529-39.
  4. Chasman D, et al. Polymorphism in the apolipoprotein (a) gene, plasma lipoprotein(a), cardiovascular Disease and Low-dose Aspirin Therapy. Atherosclersosis: 2009 Apr; 203 (2):371-6.