The cardiovascular continuum and renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system blockade.
A progressive chain of pathophysiological events links cardiovascular risk factors to clinical manifestations of disease and life-threatening cardiovascular events. This chain--the cardiovascular continuum--underlies cardiovascular disease and holds the key to its prevention and treatment. Progressive tissue damage can result in morbidity from congestive heart failure, end-stage heart disease, nephrotic proteinuria and dementia and, eventually, death from cardio- or cerebrovascular causes. The renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) is involved at all stages of the cardiovascular continuum, because the effector molecules of the RAAS, angiotensin II in particular, have direct pathobiological effects on a variety of tissues, including the endothelium, vascular smooth muscle and the renal mesangium. Clinical trials of angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors have demonstrated the essential validity of this hypothesis. Interruption of the RAAS has been shown to reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in patients with left ventricular hypertrophy, heart failure and post-myocardial infarction, as well as renal disease in patients with type 2 diabetes. Key questions remain, however. What are the clinical effects of combination ARB and ACE inhibitor treatment? How will combinations of RAAS blockade with other agents, such as statins, affect the cardiovascular continuum? Answers to these questions will require well-planned, adequately powered clinical trials, such as the Programme of Research tO evaluate Telmisartan End-organ proteCTION (PROTECTION) and the ONgoing Telmisartan Alone and in combination with Ramipril Global Endpoint Trial (ONTARGET) programmes. However, it is already clear that RAAS blockade is an essential part of blocking progression along the cardiovascular continuum.
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