It’s well established that treating multiple risk factors for heart disease is significantly more beneficial than treating any one risk factor alone. In fact, for people who have two key risk factors— high cholesterol and high blood pressure, or hypertension— the treatment and control of both conditions can reduce the risk of coronary artery disease by 50 percent or more.
Yet only about one in three people with both risk factors have them controlled so that they meet target guidelines, according to a recent analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Surveys (NHANES), which was published in 2013 in Circulation.
About 60 percent of people with hypertension also have high cholesterol. In reviewing the data—which covered more than 54,000 American adults—researchers found that control of both risk factors increased by 600 percent between 1988 and 2010, when participants were surveyed during three different periods. Despite this progress, a majority of patients still go untreated. Many of them are older Americans with diabetes or heart disease, and many see a primary care doctor fewer than two times a year.
Taking appropriate medication makes a significant difference. Patients on statin therapy, for example, were 10 times more likely to have both risk factors controlled. One key, say the researchers, is not only to get treated with medication, but to see a doctor often enough to have medications optimized to reach target goals.