The DISTINCT study (reDefining Intervention with Studies Testing Innovative Nifedipine GITS—Candesartan Therapy) investigated the efficacy and safety of nifedipine GITS/candesartan cilexetil combinations vs respective monotherapies and placebo in patients with hypertension. This descriptive sub-analysis examined blood pressure (BP)-lowering effects in high-risk participants, including those with renal impairment (estimated glomerular filtration rate<90 ml min −1, n=422), type 2 diabetes mellitus ( n=202), hypercholesterolaemia ( n=206) and cardiovascular (CV) risk factors ( n=971), as well as the impact of gender, age and body mass index (BMI). Participants with grade I/II hypertension were randomised to treatment with nifedipine GITS (N) 20, 30, 60 mg and/or candesartan cilexetil (C) 4, 8, 16, 32 mg or placebo for 8 weeks. Mean systolic BP and diastolic BP reductions after treatment in high-risk participants were greater, overall, with N/C combinations vs respective monotherapies or placebo, with indicators of a dose–response effect. Highest rates of BP control (ESH/ESC 2013 guideline criteria) were also achieved with highest doses of N/C combinations in each high-risk subgroup. The benefits of combination therapy vs monotherapy were additionally observed in patient subgroups categorised by gender, age or BMI. All high-risk participants reported fewer vasodilatory adverse events in the pooled N/C combination therapy than the N monotherapy group. In conclusion, consistent with the DISTINCT main study outcomes, high-risk participants showed greater reductions in BP and higher control rates with N/C combinations compared with respective monotherapies and lesser vasodilatory side-effects compared with N monotherapy.