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Atherosclerosis. 2008 Oct;200(2):389-95. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2007.12.020. Epub 2008 Feb 6.

Prediction of cardio- and cerebro-vascular events in patients with subclinical carotid atherosclerosis and low HDL-cholesterol.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Medicine and Emerging Diseases, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy.


Low HDL-cholesterol concentrations are associated with increased cardiovascular risk and recent evidences suggest that HDL may aggravate the atherosclerotic process promoting inflammation: HDL are anti-inflammatory in the absence of inflammation but can become proinflammatory in the presence of atherosclerosis. Yet, no data is available on the cardiovascular outcome in subjects with low HDL-cholesterol and early stages of atherosclerosis. Therefore, we included in a prospective 5-year follow-up study 150 subjects with low HDL-cholesterol concentrations and subclinical carotid atherosclerosis, as assessed by carotid colour doppler, evaluating at baseline all the established traditional cardiovascular risk factors (e.g. male gender, older age, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, smoking, family history of coronary artery disease, hypercholesterolemia), as well as levels of two markers of inflammation (C-reactive protein and fibrinogen). At the end of the follow-up we registered vascular events in the 21% of patients and we found that lower HDL-cholesterol concentrations were associated with ischemic stroke (p=.0164), peripheral arterial disease (p=.0248) and the presence of any clinical event (p=.0105). By multivariate analysis we searched, among all baseline parameters, for independent variables associated with the events and we found a predictive role for elevated fibrinogen concentrations (OR 6.3, 95% CI 2.0-19.6, p=.0016), family history of coronary artery disease (OR 4.5, 95% CI 1.7-12.8, p=.0045) and lower HDL-cholesterol levels (OR 1.4, 95% CI 1.1-1.9, p=.0278). These findings further suggest a synergistic role of low-HDL and inflammation on the atherosclerotic disease progression from subclinical lesions to clinical events. Yet, their therapeutical implications remain to be established in future studies.

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