Intervention to control hypertension and prevent coronary heart disease was initially undertaken in the United States in the late 1950s. It was conducted along three lines: randomized controlled trials, community demonstration projects, and broad public health and medical care efforts involving both the general population and its high-risk strata. This article reviews findings from the United States trials, particularly those on the primary prevention of coronary heart disease by unifactorial means (such as fat-modified diet, serum cholesterol-lowering drugs, antihypertensive drug treatment) and by multifactorial interventions. Results of unifactorial and multi-factorial trials are discussed with reference to the prevention of high blood pressure. Studies in the United States are compared with research abroad, and current research needs are reviewed together with the implications for medical practice and public health. The United States population as a whole has a large high-risk segment. Since the late 1950s, significant population-wide changes have occurred in life-styles (diet, smoking, exercise habits), and this is especially true of the more educated. The proportion of persons with detected, treated, and controlled high blood pressure has risen markedly in all population strata. Consequently, a favorable shift has occurred in the population distribution of the major established risk factors: "rich" diet, hypercholesterolemia, high blood pressure, and cigarette smoking. It can be reasonably inferred that the steady and marked declines in death rates in the United States from coronary heart disease, stroke, all cardiovascular diseases, and all causes since 1968 are related to reductions in these risk factors.
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