A life of low cholesterol and blood pressure cut heart disease risk by 80%

In a new study, researchers found sustained decreases in blood pressure and cholesterol levels could reduce the lifetime risk of developing heart attacks and strokes.

The research was conducted by an international team from Europe, the U.S., and Australia.

Scientists have previously found that lowering both blood pressure and the amount of ‘bad’ cholesterol in the blood are two ways which can prevent the onset of heart and circulatory disease.

However, the risk, which accumulates over time, has not been quantified before.

In this study, the team examined 438,952 participants in the UK Biobank, who had a total of 24,980 major coronary events—defined as the first occurrence of non-fatal heart attack, ischemic stroke or death due to coronary heart disease.

They used a method called Mendelian randomization, which uses naturally occurring genetic differences to randomly divide the participants into groups, mimicking the effects of running a clinical trial.

They found that a long-term reduction of 1 mmol/L low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or ‘bad’ cholesterol, in the blood with a 10 mmHg reduction in blood pressure led to an 80% lower lifetime risk of developing heart and circulatory disease.

This combination also reduced the risk of death from these conditions by 67%.

In addition, even small reductions can provide health benefits.

A decrease of 0.3 mmol/L LDL cholesterol in the blood and 3 mmHg lower blood pressure was linked to a 50% lower lifetime risk of heart and circulatory disease.

The team also found people with genes linked to lower blood pressure, lower LDL cholesterol and a combination of both were put into different groups, and compared against those without these genetic associations.

Differences in blood LDL cholesterol and systolic blood pressure (the highest level that blood pressure reaches when the heart contracts), along with the number of cardiovascular events was compared between groups.

The team hopes that these findings can bring about change in the healthcare of people at greater risk of developing heart and circulation complications, and improved guidance for those requiring lifestyle changes.

One author of the study is Professor Brian Ference from the University of Cambridge.

The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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