Current guidelines for managing dyslipidemia qualify patients for treatment based on low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels and other risk factors for coronary heart disease (CHD). However, when LDL-C is the sole lipid criterion for initiating therapy, patients with levels below the treatment initiation threshold who are at high risk because of low levels (<40 mg/dL) of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) might not be identified. Twenty percent of male patients with CHD in the United States fall into this category. The total cholesterol/HDL-C (TC/HDL-C) ratio predicts CHD risk regardless of the absolute LDL-C and HDL-C.
We compared guidelines based on TC/HDL-C and LDL-C with those recommended by the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III (ATP III). Both sets of guidelines were applied to 9837 adults (>20 years of age) in the Turkish Heart Study, which has shown that 75% of men and 50% of women in Turkey have HDL-C <40 mg/dL.
ATP III guidelines identified 14% of Turkish adults, 20 years or older, as candidates for lifestyle treatment only and an additional 18% for drug treatment. In conjunction with ATP III LDL-C thresholds, the TC/HDL-C ratio (>3.5, patients with CHD; > or =6.0, 2+ risk factors, > or =7.0, 0 to 1 risk factor) assigned lifestyle therapy alone to 18% and drug treatment to an additional 36%. Among primary prevention subjects at high risk because of age (men > or =45 years; women > or =55 years), both sets of guidelines prescribed lifestyle therapy for only 5%; however, drug treatment was recommended for an additional 13% by ATP III guidelines and an additional 18% by TC/HDL-C and LDL-C.
In populations at risk for CHD caused by low HDL-C, qualification of subjects for treatment based on either the TC/HDL-C ratio or LDL-C thresholds identifies more high-risk subjects for treatment than LDL-C threshold values alone, and use of the ratio, instead of risk tables, simplifies the approach for physicians.