Heart attack and stroke are leading causes of death in the U.S., despite many hours and dollars spent researching ways to prevent them. Now, a group of researchers led by Hamilton Health Sciences have come up with three relatively simple measures you can take to prevent heart disease.

The team, from both Hamilton and the Population Health Research Institute of McMaster University, looked at the records for more than 12,000 patients from 21 countries across the world. They evaluated how several drugs fare in preventing cardiovascular diseases (CVD), a group of conditions that lead to 18 million deaths globally each year. The findings included three forms of therapy: statins, antihypertensives, and a combination of the two.

“These are incredibly important findings with potential for significant global impact,” said Dr. Salim Yusuf, principal investigator and executive director of the Population Health Research Institute. “If just 10 percent of the world’s population at intermediate risk of CVD is impacted, we’re talking about 20 to 30 million people who could be helped by these drugs.”

Statins are a group of cholesterol-lowering drugs, and antihypertensives reduce blood pressure. Statins proved to significantly and safely reduce CVD by 25 percent in high risk patients who had not yet experienced a CVD event. Antihypertensives did not actually reduce CVD events in the overall population, but did lower th rate of events in the group of people with hypertension. In combination, the drugs reduced CVD events by 30 percent, and by 40 percent in those with hypertension. The results suggest people struggling with hypertension could benefit not only from lowering their blood pressure, but by taking a statin as well.

The research reports were led by Yusuf and Dr. Eva Lonn, who are both professors of medicine at McMaster, and Jackie Bosch, an associate professor of the univeristy’s school of Rehabilitation science.

Lonn explained that the trial brought clarity in managing CVD through two of the most common risk factors: blood pressure and cholesterol. Primary prevention, she said, can be greatly simplified.

“Treatment with a statin was remarkably safe and beneficial in our study, regardless of cholesterol or blood pressure levels, age, gender or ethnicity. We are incredibly encouraged by the study’s results,” added Bosch.

The findings will hopefully influence primary care in developed nations, where statins and hypertensive are inexpensive and relatively easy to obtain. Though they’re still pretty inexpensive in developing nations as well, the drugs are less affordable in relation to income. Yusuf said the prie of these drougs should start to drop if the study’s results hold out.

“These simple methods can be used practically everywhere in the world, and the drugs will become even cheaper as more an more systems adopt these therapies,” he concluded.

Since 50 million heart attacks and strokes occur every year, one would hope he’s right.

Spurce: Yusuf S, et al. Blood-pressure and Cholesterol Lowering in Persons without Cardiovascular Disease. New England Journal of Medicine. 2016.