HDL and triglyceride as therapeutic targets

Curr Opin Lipidol. 2002 Dec;13(6):605-16. doi: 10.1097/00041433-200212000-00003.


Purpose of review: Epidemiological studies have shown that plasma HDL-cholesterol is inversely related to coronary artery disease and that there is an inverse relationship between HDL-cholesterol and triglyceride levels, but it is now demonstrated that hypertriglyceridemia is an independent risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD). The goal of this review is to discuss if triglycerides and HDL-cholesterol could be therapeutic targets to reduce cardiovascular risk.

Recent findings: Triglyceride measurement is not informative on the specificity of the triglyceride-rich lipoproteins present in the plasma because some of these are not atherogenic (chylomicrons, large VLDLs) while others are highly atherogenic (small VLDLs, remnants, IDL...). Statins, in addition to reducing LDL-cholesterol, significantly reduced atherogenic remnant lipoprotein cholesterol levels. 4S, CARE+LIPID, and AFCAPS/TexCAPS studies, suggested enhanced therapeutic potential of statins for improving triglyceride and HDL-cholesterol levels in patients with CHD. A fibrate (gemfibrozil) was shown to reduce death from CHD and non-fatal myocardial infarction in secondary prevention of CHD in men with low levels of HDL-cholesterol (VA-HIT); during the treatment these levels predicted the magnitude of reduction in risk for CHD events.

Summary: ATP III recommendations state, on triglycerides and HDL-cholesterol as targets to reduce cardiovascular risk: (1) that lowering LDL-cholesterol levels is the primary target of therapy, (2) a secondary target is to achieve a triglyceride level < 150 mg/dL and (3) clinical trial data are considered to be insufficient to support recommended a specific HDL-cholesterol goal even if HDL-cholesterol < 40 mg/dL is considered to be a major risk factor of CHD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood*
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Coronary Disease / blood
  • Coronary Disease / drug therapy
  • Coronary Disease / etiology
  • Coronary Disease / prevention & control*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Gemfibrozil / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Risk Factors
  • Triglycerides / blood*


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Triglycerides
  • Gemfibrozil