Cardiovascular diseases lead to 18 million deaths and approximately 50 million heart attacks and strokes globally every year. Those are pretty sobering statistics that certainly emphasize the need to promote preventative measures. It's certainly important for patients to do their bit by eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising, but sometimes certain patients need a little extra help and it looks like hope may be on the horizon.
An international team led by Hamilton medical researchers says that it has proved three simple solutions to prevent heart attacks and stroke worldwide to be effective. The research team from the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences studied more than 12,000 patients from 21 countries to evaluate drugs that can prevent cardiovascular diseases.
"These are incredibly important findings with potential for significant global impact," said Dr. Salim Yusuf, principal investigator and executive director of PHRI. "If just 10% of the world's population at intermediate risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) is impacted, we're talking about 20 to 30 million people who could be helped by these drugs."
The team looked at statins, a group of cholesterol-lowering drugs, and antihypertensives, a class of drugs used to treat high blood pressure. In addition, it reviewed a combination of statins and antihypertensives.
Three studies on the methods were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Under the name of HOPE-3, or Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation-3, the studies involved 228 centers looking at the effects of the three treatments in people at intermediate risk of, but without, clinical heart disease.
Statins proved to significantly and safely reduce CVD events by 25% in patients at intermediate risk without CVD. Antihypertensives did not reduce major CVD events overall in the population studied, but did reduce such events in the group of people with hypertension, but not in those without hypertension. When combined, statins and antihypertensives reduced CVD events by 30% — with a 40% benefit in those with hypertension, suggesting that patients with hypertension should not only lower their BP but also consider taking a statin.
The HOPE-3 research reports were led by Yusuf and Dr. Eva Lonn, both professors of medicine of McMaster's Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, and Jackie Bosch, an associate professor of the university's School of Rehabilitation Science.
HOPE-3's findings can have a major influence on primary care in developed nations, where statins and antihypertensives are inexpensive, Yusuf added. While still relatively inexpensive in developing nations, the drugs are less affordable in relation to income. Still, Yusuf said the study's results hold promise everywhere as the price of these drugs start to come down.
"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," he said.
Yusuf, Lonn and Bosch presented the HOPE-3 trials at the 2016 American College of Cardiology (ACC) Scientific Session and Expo in Chicago this past weekend.