Background: Recent clinical trials have shown that modification of plasma lipoprotein concentrations can favorably alter progression of coronary atherosclerosis, but no data exist on the effects of a comprehensive program of risk reduction involving both changes in lifestyle and medications. This study tested the hypothesis that intensive multiple risk factor reduction over 4 years would significantly reduce the rate of progression of atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries of men and women compared with subjects randomly assigned to the usual care of their physician.
Methods and results: Three hundred men (n = 259) and women (n = 41) (mean age, 56 +/- 7.4 years) with angiographically defined coronary atherosclerosis were randomly assigned to usual care (n = 155) or multifactor risk reduction (n = 145). Patients assigned to risk reduction were provided individualized programs involving a low-fat and -cholesterol diet, exercise, weight loss, smoking cessation, and medications to favorably alter lipoprotein profiles. Computer-assisted quantitative coronary arteriography was performed at baseline and after 4 years. The main angiographic outcome was the rate of change in the minimal diameter of diseased segments. All subjects underwent medical and risk factor evaluations at baseline and yearly for 4 years, and reasons for all hospitalizations and deaths were documented. Of the 300 subjects randomized, 274 (91.3%) completed a follow-up arteriogram, and 246 (82%) had comparative measurements of segments with visible disease at baseline and follow-up. Intensive risk reduction resulted in highly significant improvements in various risk factors, including low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and apolipoprotein B (both, 22%), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (+12%), plasma triglycerides (-20%), body weight (-4%), exercise capacity (+20%), and intake of dietary fat (-24%) and cholesterol (-40%) compared with relatively small changes in the usual-care group. No change was observed in lipoprotein(a) in either group. The risk-reduction group showed a rate of narrowing of diseased coronary artery segments that was 47% less than that for subjects in the usual-care group (change in minimal diameter, -0.024 +/- 0.066 mm/y versus -0.045 +/- 0.073 mm/y; P < .02, two-tailed). Three deaths occurred in each group. There were 25 hospitalizations in the risk-reduction group initiated by clinical cardiac events compared with 44 in the usual-care group (rate ratio, 0.61; P = .05; 95% confidence interval, 0.4 to 0.9).
Conclusions: Intensive multifactor risk reduction conducted over 4 years favorably altered the rate of luminal narrowing in coronary arteries of men and women with coronary artery disease and decreased hospitalizations for clinical cardiac events.