Heart Health: Control of Risk Factors
Welcome to this month’s Heart Care newsletter. Our topic is Protect Heart with Low Blood Pressure and Cholesterol. The tightest control of the major risk factors for heart disease seems to provide the greatest protection against cardiovascular problems. The study findings are reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Dr. Stephen Nicholls, author of the report, says the current guidelines for reducing risk factors, such as blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, might need to be tightened even further. It says it’s clear that any benefit we gain from lowering LDL cholesterol and blood pressure is going to be important, and the lower you get those measurements, the better.
Dr. Nicholls looked at data on the arteries of nearly 3,500 men enrolled in seven different trials at a major medical research center. The arteries were examined by ultrasound probes to measure volume of the fatty deposits in the blood vessel linings. These deposits can grow until they block blood flow, causing a heart attack or stroke. The least amount of growth was seen in those men who had the lowest levels of LDL cholesterol; the bad kind that contributes to the fatty deposits, and the lowest levels of blood pressure.
Dr. Nicholls says the patients who had the best results in terms of deposit growth were those with the lowest LDL and lowest blood pressure. Specifically, the least growth was seen in men with blood cholesterol readings under 70 mg/dL, with a systolic blood pressure (the top number) under 120. The guidelines for blood pressure say that men at risk can have systolic readings as high as 140. A reading between 120 and 140 is called prehypertension. With LDL cholesterol, the current recommendation is a level of 100 for men at high risk for heart disease. Consideration is given to lowering it to 70.
Cardiologist Dr. Jonathan Tobias and Dr. Alice Perlowski, who wrote an editorial on the study, suggest further clinical study to determine if reduction in total plaque volume corresponds with fewer heart attacks and strokes. They add that the composition of the fatty deposit might be as important as its size. Some plaques might be less stable and more likely to rupture or block a blood vessel.
While the study indicates that lowering existing guidelines levels for LDL cholesterol and high blood pressure could reduce risk considerably, Dr. Nicholls agrees that more study is needed.
For more information, always consult your doctor. Thank you for listening. Please visit our website for more information on health and wellness topics.