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For many years, we have been using beta-blockers to neutralise a specific stress hormone and prevent dangerous heart rhythms following a heart attack. However, a new study led Department of Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics (DPAG) and published in the European Heart Journal has uncovered evidence for an additional stress hormone acting as a key trigger for dangerous heart rhythms that is not currently targeted by these drugs.

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Cardiovascular disease is the main cause of death in the UK and throughout the Western World. Around half of these are caused by an unexpected change in the rhythm of the heart leading to collapse and cardiac arrest, known as "sudden cardiac death." The most common trigger for this is a heart attack, which occurs when one of the heart's arteries is blocked. However, why some heart attacks trigger dangerous heart rhythms and others do not is not fully understood.

Introduced over 50 years ago, drugs called beta-blockers stop the action of a stress hormone called norepinephrine, and are currently the only drugs that prolong life after a heart attack by helping to prevent dangerous heart rhythms. In new research from the DPAG, it is hypothesised that an additional stress hormone called Neuropeptide-Y (NPY) may be a key trigger for dangerous heart rhythms. 

Read more (Department of Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics)