Cutting Blood Pressure, Cholesterol Levels Will Reduce Heart Disease Risk By Half
July 2, 2013

Cutting Blood Pressure, Cholesterol Levels Will Reduce Heart Disease Risk By Half

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Cutting risks of heart disease is important for positive long-term health outcomes. New research from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) has found controlling high blood pressure and high cholesterol is a key step in cutting that risk by more than half.

Publishing the findings in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, the researchers, led by Brent M. Egan, MD, professor of medicine and pharmacology at MUSC, also found proper medications would greatly benefit older people, diabetics and those with cardiovascular disease to better control blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Also, visiting a doctor at least twice a year could help.

However, the team estimates fewer than one in three people achieve the goal of reducing risk of heart disease.

Millions of Americans are affected by untreated high blood pressure and cholesterol, which is a major public health threat, said Egan.

"The reality is, we know more than enough to prevent 75 percent of heart disease and strokes, but we're not doing everything we could be doing or even doing it at a reasonable level," he said. "We've made some gradual improvements over the years, but there is still a lot of progress to be made."

Nearly 33 percent of the adult US population is affected by high blood pressure and in the neighborhood of 32 million Americans have dangerously high cholesterol levels of 240 mg/dL or higher. Previous research has shown treating high blood pressure reduces the risk of heart disease by at least 25 percent and treating high cholesterol in patients with hypertension can reduce the risk by more than 35 percent, according to background information in the study.

The new findings are based on data from more than 17,000 American adults who were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) during three key study periods: 1988-1994, 1999-2004 and 2005-2010. The research team not only looked at blood pressure and cholesterol levels, but also at key factors, including race, age, insurance status, those who smoked, had diabetes, and/or had heart disease or chronic kidney disease.

Egan maintained that cholesterol readings need to be monitored closely.

"If patients' cholesterol tests show a good high-density lipoprotein (HDL) level, which is the healthy, protective cholesterol, then the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) number might get overlooked. Unfortunately, not all HDL is equally protective and some people with a normal HDL are at high risk. In those patients, there might be a false sense of assurance that cholesterol really isn't a problem. But LDL and non-HDL readings are the ones to really watch," he said.

"Patients seeing their doctors for blood pressure treatment should ask about their LDL and non-HDL levels and make sure both are under control at the same time," Egan concluded.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the state of South Carolina and the National Institutes of Health partly funded the study.