Heart disease: The forgotten pandemic
•The number of Americans dying of heart disease has been steadily climbing while the number with high cholesterol has been gradually falling.
•Current guidelines recommend aggressive reduction of LDL-C to prevent coronary heart disease, but new research suggests that other factors may be far more important in the pathogenesis of coronary heart disease.
•Despite the widespread utilization of cholesterol-lowering statins in Europe, there has been no accompanying decline in coronary heart disease deaths.
•The totality of new evidence compels us to question why our current approach to heart disease prevention through targeted reductions of LDL-C is not working.
Over the past 10 years cholesterol levels have been falling while the number of Americans dying of heart disease has been steadily climbing. This apparent paradox compels us to question whether lowering cholesterol is the best way to prevent coronary heart disease. A number of recent studies suggest that cholesterol, specifically LDL-C, may not be a primary risk factor for coronary heart disease and other markers, such as insulin resistance or remnant cholesterol, may be much more important. Furthermore, therapies designed to prevent coronary heart disease by lowering cholesterol with drugs or diet have yielded inconsistent results. Despite the widespread utilization of cholesterol-lowering statins in Europe, observational studies indicate that there has been no accompanying decline in coronary heart disease deaths. This new evidence should give us pause as we try to understand why the campaign to prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol has not achieved its goals.