Heart patients often have unhealthy lipid levels

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Many patients with cardiovascular disease fail to achieve recommended levels of “bad” LDL-cholesterol and other lipids (blood fats), according to a report published this month.

Dr. Nathan D. Wong from the University of California, Irvine, and colleagues examined the extent to which recommended levels of lipids were present in a large sample of U.S. adults.

Among individuals free of cardiovascular disease, 85 percent to 89 percent had recommended levels of harmful LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides and healthy or “good” HDL-cholesterol, the researchers report. The same was true for non-HDL-cholesterol.

In contrast, less than 40 percent of patients with cardiovascular disease were at goal for LDL-cholesterol and non-HDL-cholesterol, 35 percent had low levels of healthy HDL-cholesterol, and 44 percent had levels of harmful triglycerides above the recommended level.

Overall, only 17 percent of cardiovascular disease patients were at recommended levels for all lipids, the researchers report in the American Heart Journal.

Just over a third of patients with abnormal lipid levels reported being treated with a lipid-lowering drug, the report indicates, though this ranged from 3 percent in patients aged 20-29 years to 51 percent in patients aged 70-79 years and from 24 percent in those without cardiovascular disease to 63 percent in those with heart and blood vessel disease.

Despite treatment, only 30 percent of these patients (including only 19 percent of patients with cardiovascular disease) were at recommended levels of all three lipids.

The percent of individuals at goal for the various lipids increased between 1988-1994 and 2003-2006, the investigators say, but treatment rates in all groups remained suboptimal.

“Greater use of proven efficacious dosages of lipid-lowering agents as well as intensified consideration of combination therapy to address those with multiple lipid disorders are required, particularly among persons with cardiovascular and related high-risk comorbidities,” Wong and colleagues conclude.

SOURCE: American Heart Journal, July 2008.