An inexpensive way to prevent strokes and heart attacks

Accreditation Insider, April 5, 2016

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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major issue both nationally and globally. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CVD was the leading cause of death for Americans in 2014, causing 611,105 deaths annually. Worldwide, there are 50 million cases of heart attack and stroke due to CVD, causing 18 million deaths per year.

To find an inexpensive treatment to this problem, a research team conducted a study of different types of medication on 12,000 patients in 21 countries. The studies, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at the use of statins, a type of cholesterol lowering drug, and antihypertensive drugs in preventing CVD.

Antihypertensives were found only to be effective in reducing CVDs when used on patients already diagnosed as hypertensive, while statins reduced CVD rates by 25% in studied patients. However, when used together, statins and antihypertensives were proven to cut CVD rates by 30% to 40% in hypertensive patients. 

"These are incredibly important findings with potential for significant global impact," principal study investigator Salim Yusuf, MD, DPhil, MRCP, said in a press release. "If just 10% of the world's population at intermediate risk of CVD is impacted, we're talking about 20 to 30 million people who could be helped by these drugs."

Statin treatment was found to be remarkably safe and beneficial regardless of cholesterol or blood pressure levels, age, gender or ethnicity. Since both types of drugs are relatively inexpensive, researchers hope that their use will become more widespread. 

"These simple methods can be used practically everywhere in the world, and the drugs will become even cheaper as more and more systems and people adopt these therapies," said researcher Jackie Bosch, PhD.

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