Measuring the Effects of Prevention on Heart Disease

Despite the rising proportion of the older population who choose to be overweight or obese, risk of heart disease has declined somewhat in past few decades. This outcome can be attributed to prevention in the sense of at least some people taking better care of their health by specifically targeting measures such as blood pressure and blood lipid levels, coupled with prevention in the sense of treatments such as statins that also reliably influence these measures. Increased blood pressure with age, or hypertension, directly impacts risk of cardiovascular disease and other conditions by putting additional stress on tissue structures and causing the heart to remodel itself detrimentally. Higher blood lipid levels on the other hand contribute to the progression of atherosclerosis, attacking blood vessel walls to form fatty deposits that can later break to cause blockages or ruptures of blood vessels. These are all things best avoided if possible, but until the advent of rejuvenation therapies after the SENS model the best that can be done is to slow down the damage.

Diagnosis and control of coronary heart disease (CHD) risk factors have received particular emphasis in guidelines issued since 1977 (blood pressure) and 1985 (lipids). Yet on a population level, little is known about how these efforts have altered CHD incidence and its association with modifiable risk factors. Researchers pooled individual patient-level data from 5 observational cohort studies available in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Biologic Specimen and Data Repository Information Coordinating Center. Two analytic data sets were created: 1 set with baseline data collected from 1983 through 1990 (early era) with follow-up from 1996 through 2001, and l set with baseline data collected from 1996 through 2002 (late era) with follow-up from 2007 through 2011. The study included characteristics of 14,009 pairs of participants in the 2 groups. Participants ages 40 to 79 years who were free of cardiovascular disease were selected from each era and matched on age, race, and sex. Each group was followed for up to 12 years for new-onset CHD (i.e., heart attack, coronary death, angina, coronary insufficiency).

"Examination of adults from 5 large observational cohort studies led to several findings. First, the incidence of CHD declined almost 20 percent over time from 1983 to 2011. Second, although the prevalence of diabetes increased, the fraction of CHD attributable to diabetes decreased over time, due to attenuation of the association between diabetes and CHD. This may have resulted from changing definitions and awareness of diabetes, improvements in diabetes treatment and control, and/or better primary prevention. Third, there was no evidence that the strength of the association between smoking, systolic blood pressure, or dyslipidemia and CHD changed between eras, nor was there evidence that the proportion of CHD due to these factors changed. This underscores the importance of continued prevention efforts targeting these risk factors."


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