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Management of dyslipidemia in the primary prevention of coronary heart disease

Singh, Balkrishna K. MD; Mehta, Jawahar L. MD, PhD


Coronary heart disease is a leading cause of death in industrialized nations. Hyperlipidemia with elevated serum total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides is a known major cardiovascular risk factor. HDL cholesterol is considered to be protective, so low HDL cholesterol is being recognized as an independent cardiovascular risk factor that contributes to the development of atherosclerosis and related adverse cardiovascular events. The recognition of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome is a step further in understanding these risk factors. Attempts at reducing serum cholesterol with different strategies in the past have met with limited success until the development of statins. The advent of statins has revolutionized the management of hyperlipidemia. The post-statins era has seen major clinical trials demonstrating the benefit of cholesterol reduction in the setting of both primary and secondary prevention. In general, there appears to be a 25% to 40% relative risk reduction in major adverse cardiovascular events such as death, myocardial infarction, and stroke. The recent megatrials further suggest that aggressive management of cholesterol in patients with high cardiovascular risk may be beneficial. Though the concept of the-lower-the-better may be looming, the question of “How low is good enough?” remains controversial. The results of recent megatrials such as the Heart Protection Study go a step further than the NCEP guidelines and suggest that statin therapy may benefit patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease regardless of their baseline values. We summarize the results of the available large clinical trials in our understanding of the management of dyslipidemia in a setting of primary prevention.

Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and VA Medical Center, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA.

Correspondence to B. K. Singh, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Director, Section of Echocardiography, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, 4301 W. Markham, Slot 532, Little Rock, AR 72205, USA; e-mail:

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.