Statins and High Blood Pressure

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An international research team found that atorvastatin can help prevent heart attacks and strokes in people with high blood pressure, even if their cholesterol level is within normal range. These findings, from the ongoing Anglo-Scandinavian Cardiac Outcomes Trial, were published online in The Lancet (April 2, 2003). One arm of the originally planned 5-year study was stopped last fall after 3 years because the researchers saw a decrease in heart attack and stroke early on.

The part of the trial that was halted was exploring whether atorvastatin prevented cardiovascular complications in 10,305 people, mostly men, with high blood pressure and

40 to 79 years old. The participants had total cholesterol levels of ~250 mg/dL or lower, which researchers considered average or below average. Also, they had at least 3 other risk factors for heart disease, including smoking or diabetes, and all were on blood pressure medication. Half of the participants took atorvastatin, while the others took placebo.

In the atorvastatin group, 100 patients had heart attacks or deaths from heart disease and 89 had strokes, compared with 154 and 121, respectively, in the placebo group. The researchers concluded that people taking atorvastatin had a 36% lower risk for heart attacks or death from heart disease and a 27% lower risk for stroke.