Study shows drug combo reduces prevalence of stroke.

Promising Drug Combo Nearly Halves Stroke Risk Says New Report

Summary: A new report provides good news for warding off stroke and hardening of the arteries, two diseases of aging. Combining blood-pressure-lowering drugs with cholesterol-lowering medications reduced first-time strokes by 44%, according to a report by the AHA/ASA. [This article first appeared on the website Author: Brady Hartman. ]

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the US and a disease of aging that grows more prevalent with each birthday.

Now, a report says a new drug regimen promises to cut that risk nearly in half.

In a  press release on January 25, 2018, the American Heart Association (AHA)  reported preliminary research presented at the American Stroke Association’s (ASA) International Stroke Conference 2018. The findings come from the Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation (HOPE) Study – an extensive, international study focused on the prevention of heart disease and stroke. The HOPE study involved more than 12,000 participants from 21 countries.

The AHA press release said that combining a medication that lowers blood pressure with a drug that reduces cholesterol

“reduced first-time strokes by 44 percent”, adding “for those with very high blood pressure – readings 143.5 mm Hg or higher — taking two types of blood pressure-lowering drugs together every day reduced stroke by 42 percent.”

High cholesterol and high blood pressure both increase the risk for stroke. Strokes occur due to broken or blocked blood vessels, the roots of which lie in the condition known as hardening of the arteries – or atherosclerosis – a disease of aging in which fat and cholesterol form plaques on the walls of blood vessels, narrowing and stiffening them.

As we grow older, cholesterol increasingly clogs up our blood vessels.  Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as ‘bad cholesterol,’ is a significant factor in heart disease and stroke. Medications which lower blood cholesterol, such as statins or PCSK9 inhibitors, impede the progress of atherosclerosis by lowering cholesterol levels.  Statins reduce the amount of bad cholesterol in the blood and lessen the build-up of artery-blocking plaques.

Moreover, blood-pressure-lowering medications reduce the risk of rupture in these compromised blood vessels.

The average age of the HOPE study participants was 66 years, and 46 percent were women. The AHA/ASA reports that 166 strokes occurred during an average follow-up of 5.6 years. At the start of the HOPE study, says the press release, “the average blood pressure was 138/82 mm Hg”, whereas “a normal blood pressure reading is around 120/80 mm Hg.”

The AHA/ASA press release highlighted three significant findings, saying

“Taking daily doses of two blood pressure drugs (fixed dose candesartan and hydrochlorothiazide) along with a cholesterol-lowering drug (low-dose rosuvastatin), proved to be the most effective, cutting first-time strokes by 44 percent among patients at intermediate risk for heart disease.”

“For those with very high blood pressure — readings 143.5 mm Hg or higher — taking 16 milligrams of candesartan plus 12.5 milligrams of hydrochlorothiazide every day reduced stroke by 42 percent.”

“Compared with a placebo, stroke was reduced by 30 percent among participants taking daily doses of 10 milligrams of rosuvastatin.”

Lead study author Jackie Bosch, Ph.D., of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada said,

“These results indicate that to prevent stroke in those at moderate risk, blood pressure lowering plus cholesterol-lowering should be considered in those with elevated blood pressure, and cholesterol-lowering should definitely be considered for all,” The lead study author added “These are existing drugs that are well-tolerated, have strong safety profiles and it is easy for patients to stick with them.”

Based on these results, Dr. Bosch noted that researchers are now looking at developing a single tablet that produces the same effects as taking multiple pills that lower both blood pressure and cholesterol.

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Cover photo credit: Getty Images (iStock).

AHA press release. “Combining drugs that lower blood pressure and cholesterol could do more to prevent stroke.” American Heart Association Meeting Report Presentation 104 – Session: A19. January 25, 2018. Link to AHA/ASA press release.


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