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Curr Opin Cardiol. 2003 Jul;18(4):286-94.

Emerging importance of HDL cholesterol in developing high-risk coronary plaques in acute coronary syndromes.

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Cardiovascular Biology Research Laboratory, Zena and Michael A Weiner Cardiovascular Institute, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York 10029, USA.


Cardiovascular disease is the principal cause of death in industrialized countries. Hyperlipidemia, with high low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides, and low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels (<40 mg/dL in men and <45 mg/dL in women), is a known major cardiovascular risk factor. Statins are considered the most potent and effective agents to reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, but they have a variable effect on high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides. Different clinical trials with statins have shown a decrease in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by 35% and a reduction of the incidence of coronary events by as much as 30%. However, 60 to 70% of events still occur, despite remarkable reduction of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration. Recent National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines highlighted the importance of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol is considered an independent risk factor and has an inverse relation with coronary events. The association of low levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol with an increased incidence of cardiovascular events implies a critical role of high-density lipoprotein in the protection against atherosclerotic disease and in the progression of coronary atherosclerotic disease. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol appears to exert this protective effect through multiple mechanisms. High-density lipoprotein is not only involved in reverse cholesterol transport, but also prevents endothelial dysfunction; inhibits the homing of monocytes, apoptosis, platelet activation, and factor X activation; and has antioxidant properties. In this article the authors review the available experimental and clinical evidence supporting the importance of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol as a protective factor in coronary artery disease, and the strategies developed to increase high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.

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