Skipping Meds Ups Heart Patients' Stroke Risk
Fatal strokes seven times more likely if drugs to control blood pressure, cholesterol aren't taken as prescribed
By Dennis Thompson
MONDAY, March 28, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- People at risk for heart disease are much more likely to die from a stroke if they don't take cholesterol-lowering statin drugs and blood pressure medications as prescribed, a new study reports.
Folks with high blood pressure and high cholesterol had a seven times greater risk of suffering a fatal stroke if they didn't follow their drug regimen to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
The study findings were published online March 28 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Fatal stroke risk also increased if these patients stuck to one type of medication but not both, the researchers found.
For example, if patients kept taking blood pressure medication but dropped their statins, their risk of dying from a stroke increased by 82 percent. Turning the tables, they had a 30 percent added risk of stroke if they took their statins but didn't take their blood pressure medications.
"High blood pressure and high cholesterol concentration are key risk factors for stroke for which effective medication is available," said study lead author Kimmo Herttua, head researcher for the Center of Maritime Health and Society at the University of Southern Denmark. "A major obstacle for the full benefits of lipid-lowering and antihypertensive treatments is the non-adherence of patients to drug therapy."
Stroke is responsible for 12 percent of all deaths worldwide, and it is the second leading cause of death after heart disease, the researchers said.
In this study, Herttua and colleagues tracked data on more than 58,000 patients in Finland with high cholesterol levels. During an average 5.5 years of follow-up, 532 died of stroke.
The researchers used prescription records to track whether people were taking medications as their doctors ordered. They found that only six out of 10 people took statins as prescribed.
Experts cited a number of reasons patients might find it tough to keep up with all their medications.
Doctors struggle to get patients to stick to any sort of health-improving regimen, noted Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a cardiologist and medical director of NYU Langone's Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health.