"These results are the first to show that treatment with allopurinol can improve vessel dilation in heart failure patients," says Allan D. Struthers, M.D., F.R.C.P., co-author of the study and professor of cardiovascular medicine and therapeutics at Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee, United Kingdom. "The data are particularly noteworthy because allopurinol is often prescribed anyway in heart failure patients, although for other reasons. It is safe and relatively cheap."
Chronic heart failure (HF), in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body's needs, is a common condition that causes death and disability. People with HF often experience chest pain and breathlessness when they are physically active because oxygen-rich blood from the lungs backs up in the veins between the lungs and the heart instead of reaching the organs that need it. Fluid also builds up in other parts of the body, such as the ankles, he says.
In people with HF, the vessels fail to relax, forcing the failing heart to work even harder. The diuretic drugs used to treat the fluid retention of heart failure can result in gout, a buildup of uric acid in the blood. Gout occurs when excess uric acid is converted to sodium urate crystal and deposits in joints and other tissues, often in the big toe. Hence, the need for allopurinol, Struthers explains.
HF is also linked to oxidative stress, an increase in harmful free radicals that can damage blood vessels. The free radical superoxide is a form of oxygen that neutralizes nitric oxide, a substance created by the endothelium (the inner lining of the arteries) that dilates healthy vessels to accommodate increased demands during
Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association