Molecular sources of residual cardiovascular risk, clinical signals, and innovative solutions: relationship with subclinical disease, undertreatment, and poor adherence: implications of new evidence upon optimizing cardiovascular patient outcomes
Cardiometabolic Research Institute, Houston, TX, USA
Abstract: Residual risk, the ongoing appreciable risk of major cardiovascular events (MCVE) in statin-treated patients who have achieved evidence-based lipid goals, remains a concern among cardiologists. Factors that contribute to this continuing risk are atherogenic non-low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles and atherogenic processes unrelated to LDL cholesterol, including other risk factors, the inherent properties of statin drugs, and patient characteristics, ie, genetics and behaviors. In addition, providers, health care systems, the community, public policies, and the environment play a role. Major statin studies suggest an average 28% reduction in LDL cholesterol and a 31% reduction in relative risk, leaving a residual risk of about 69%. Incomplete reductions in risk, and failure to improve conditions that create risk, may result in ongoing progression of atherosclerosis, with new and recurring lesions in original and distant culprit sites, remodeling, arrhythmias, rehospitalizations, invasive procedures, and terminal disability. As a result, identification of additional agents to reduce residual risk, particularly administered together with statin drugs, has been an ongoing quest. The current model of atherosclerosis involves many steps during which disease may progress independently of guideline-defined elevations in LDL cholesterol. Differences in genetic responsiveness to statin therapy, differences in ability of the endothelium to regenerate and repair, and differences in susceptibility to nonlipid risk factors, such as tobacco smoking, hypertension, and molecular changes associated with obesity and diabetes, may all create residual risk. A large number of inflammatory and metabolic processes may also provide eventual therapeutic targets to lower residual risk. Classically, epidemiologic and other evidence suggested that raising high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol would be cardioprotective. When LDL cholesterol is aggressively lowered to targets, low HDL cholesterol levels are still inversely related to MCVE. The efflux capacity, or ability to relocate cholesterol out of macrophages, is believed to be a major antiatherogenic mechanism responsible for reduction in MCVE mediated in part by healthy HDL. HDL cholesterol is a complex molecule with antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, antithrombotic, antiplatelet, and vasodilatory properties, among which is protection of LDL from oxidation. HDL-associated paraoxonase-1 has a major effect on endothelial function. Further, HDL promotes endothelial repair and progenitor cell health, and supports production of nitric oxide. HDL from patients with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and autoimmune disease may fail to protect or even become proinflammatory or pro-oxidant. Mendelian randomization and other clinical studies in which raising HDL cholesterol has not been beneficial suggest that high plasma levels do not necessarily reduce cardiovascular risk. These data, coupled with extensive preclinical information about the functional heterogeneity of HDL, challenge the “HDL hypothesis”, ie, raising HDL cholesterol per se will reduce MCVE. After the equivocal AIM-HIGH (Atherothrombosis Intervention in Metabolic Syndrome With Low HDL/High Triglycerides: Impact on Global Health Outcomes) study and withdrawal of two major cholesteryl ester transfer protein compounds, one for off-target adverse effects and the other for lack of efficacy, development continues for two other agents, ie, anacetrapib and evacetrapib, both of which lower LDL cholesterol substantially. The negative but controversial HPS2-THRIVE (the Heart Protection Study 2-Treatment of HDL to Reduce the Incidence of Vascular Events) trial casts further doubt on the HDL cholesterol hypothesis. The growing impression that HDL functionality, rather than abundance, is clinically important is supported by experimental evidence highlighting the conditional pleiotropic actions of HDL. Non-HDL cholesterol reflects the cholesterol in all atherogenic particles containing apolipoprotein B, and has outperformed LDL cholesterol as a lipid marker of cardiovascular risk and future mortality. In addition to including a measure of residual risk, the advantages of using non-HDL cholesterol as a primary lipid target are now compelling. Reinterpretation of data from the Treating to New Targets study suggests that better control of smoking, body weight, hypertension, and diabetes will help lower residual risk. Although much improved, control of risk factors other than LDL cholesterol currently remains inadequate due to shortfalls in compliance with guidelines and poor patient adherence. More efficient and greater use of proven simple therapies, such as aspirin, beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers, combined with statin therapy, may be more fruitful in improving outcomes than using other complex therapies. Comprehensive, intensive, multimechanistic, global, and national programs using primordial, primary, and secondary prevention to lower the total level of cardiovascular risk are necessary.
Keywords: cardiovascular prevention, low-density lipoprotein, high-density lipoprotein, statin drugs, metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes, niacin, AIM-HIGH study, cholesteryl ester transfer protein, endothelial progenitor cells, fibrate drugs
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