Prescription for Preventing Cardiovascular Deaths

The combined medication helps people better adhere to treatment, probably because it’s easier to remember to take one pill than multiple ones
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of premature death among Iranians.Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of premature death among Iranians.

The Health Ministry is executing a project that would help prevent heart attacks and strokes in men and women aged over 40 years.

“Under the plan, people will be screened for cardiovascular diseases, and high-risk groups will receive the ‘polypill prescription’ to prevent potential fatal attacks,” said Reza Malekzadeh, deputy health minister for research and development.

“Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of premature death among Iranians claiming 51% of the annual death rate,” he said on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of the Research Center for Minimal Intervention Methods at Tehran’s Pars Hospital.

The project is being piloted in Golestan and Fars provinces, IRNA reported.

Noting that people at risk of cardiovascular complications tend to have high blood pressure, high blood sugar, too much fat around the waist, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and high triglycerides for about 10 years before experiencing a heart attack or stroke, Malekzadeh said screening would help in preventing potential fatalities.

“That is why people over 40, a critical age for such complications, will be screened to receive treatment if necessary,” he noted.

Cardiovascular diseases are the major cause of preventable death and disability globally and affect approximately half of all individuals over their lifetimes. Their burden has decreased in developed countries as effective prevention and treatment strategies have been implemented, although these gains are threatened by increasing obesity, sedentary lifestyles, and diabetes mellitus.

By contrast, they have mounted in developing countries, and by the year 2020, 80% of global mortality from cardiovascular diseases is predicted to occur in low and middle-income countries.

Several measures have been taken by the Health Ministry during the past three years to increase public access to quality treatment and control strategies for heart disease. The national document on prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) calls for reducing cardiovascular diseases by 25% by the end of 2025.

  Polypill Prescription

Under the project, called ‘Polypill Prevention Program,’ those on the risk side will receive a prescription for the tablet ‘polypill’ after getting tested for weight, height, waistline, and level of blood pressure, blood sugar, and triglycerides.

The program is a highly effective course of medication designed to reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. The pill is a combination of several medications commonly used to treat heart disease and high blood pressure, selected to maximize effectiveness and safety.

The combination of drugs improves the preventive effect while minimizing the risk of side effects.

The drugs often include aspirin, cholesterol-lowering medications (statins), medications to make heart beat with less force (beta blockers), and some to help keep blood vessels open (ACE inhibitors).

“The method has been employed in several countries for years,” the deputy minister said.

The combined medication helps people better adhere to their treatment, probably because it’s easier to remember to take one medication than multiple ones. Research has shown that the polypill is effective in improving blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

According to the latest WHO data published in May 2014, coronary heart disease deaths in Iran reached 97,663 or 29% of total deaths and stroke deaths reached 41,573 or 12.36% of total deaths.

Cardiovascular diseases account for most NCD deaths (17.5 million people) annually in the world.  Of these deaths, an estimated 7.4 million are due to coronary heart disease and 6.7 million due to stroke.