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Adv Intern Med. 2001;47:111-36.

A risk factor for atherosclerosis: triglyceride-rich lipoproteins.

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  • 1Cardiovascular Research Institute, Pediatric Lipid Clinic, University of California, San Francisco, USA.


Compelling evidence from meta-analysis of a number of clinical studies on a large aggregate of patients has established an increased level of triglycerides as an independent risk factor for atherosclerotic heart disease. The finding of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins in human atheromata has provided substantial pathophysiologic evidence for a direct role in atherogenesis. Hypertriglyceridemia is commonly embedded in the context of a metabolic syndrome that includes central obesity, insulin resistance, low levels of HDL cholesterol, and often hypertension. Hypertriglyceridemia also appears to underlie the phenomenon of small dense LDL in most instances. Therapeutic interventions must be directed at underlying obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes when present, as well as addressing metabolic determinants of dyslipidemia per se. Diet, exercise, weight loss, and avoidance of alcohol are the cornerstones of treatment. The choice of medication should be based on the lipoprotein phenotype. Niacin, fibric acid derivatives, and omega-3 fatty acids are most useful in treating severe hypertriglyceridemia. HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors are useful in some phenotypes with moderately increased triglyceride levels. Evidence from a number of clinical trials indicates that mitigation of risk of coronary heart disease, and possibly stroke, can be effected by reducing levels of plasma triglycerides.

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