Lipid-lowering therapy: who can benefit?Vasc Health Risk Manag 2011; 7:525-34VH
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the US. Despite the decline in CVD-associated mortality rates in recent years, coronary heart disease (CHD) still causes one in every six deaths in this country. Because most CHD risk factors are modifiable (eg, smoking, hypertension, obesity, onset of type 2 diabetes, and dyslipidemia), cardiovascular risk can be reduced by timely and appropriate interventions, such as smoking cessation, diet and lifestyle changes, and lipid-modifying therapy. Dyslipidemia, manifested by elevated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), is central to the development and progression of atherosclerosis, which can be silent for decades before triggering a first major cardiovascular event. Consequently, dyslipidemia has become a primary target of intervention in strategies for the prevention of cardiovascular events. The guidelines of the Adult Treatment Panel (ATP) III, updated in 2004, recommend therapeutic lifestyle changes and the use of lipid-lowering medications, such as statins, to achieve specific LDL-C goals based on a person's global cardiovascular risk. For high-risk individuals, such as patients with CHD and diabetic patients without CHD, an LDL-C target of < 100 mg/dL is recommended, and statin therapy should be considered to help patients achieve this goal. If correctly dosed in appropriate patients, currently approved statins are generally safe and provide significant cardiovascular benefits in diverse populations, including women, the elderly, and patients with diabetes. A recent primary prevention trial also showed that statins benefit individuals traditionally not considered at high risk of CHD, such as those with no hyperlipidemia but elevated C-reactive protein. Additional evidence suggests that statins may halt or slow atherosclerotic disease progression. Recent evidence confirms the pivotal role of statins in primary and secondary prevention.