Low HDL-C: a secondary target of dyslipidemia therapy

Am J Med. 2005 Oct;118(10):1067-77. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2004.12.021.


Current guidelines for the prevention of coronary heart disease (CHD) focus on lowering low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) as the primary target of lipid-modifying therapy. However, there is increasing interest in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) as a secondary target of therapy. A wealth of epidemiologic data demonstrate that low levels of HDL-C are associated with an increased risk of CHD events, and data from large-scale clinical trials with statins and fibrates indicate that observed clinical benefits are related, at least in part, to improvements in HDL-C levels. Raising HDL-C levels with therapeutic lifestyle changes and pharmacologic intervention might afford opportunities to further reduce the risk of CHD beyond LDL-C lowering. Statins are first-line pharmacotherapy for dyslipidemia and can also improve HDL-C levels, although the extent to which they modify HDL-C varies. Combining a fibrate or niacin with statin therapy raises HDL-C more than a statin alone but might be associated with reduced tolerability and increased adverse reactions. Several new therapeutic approaches to raising HDL-C are in development, including an HDL mimetic and inhibitors of cholesteryl ester transfer protein. Although lowering LDL-C remains the primary target of lipid-modifying therapy, dyslipidemia therapies that are efficacious for both LDL-C reduction and raising HDL-C might offer further improvements in CHD risk reduction.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arteriosclerosis / blood
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood*
  • Coronary Disease / blood
  • Dyslipidemias / blood
  • Dyslipidemias / therapy*
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Hypolipidemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Life Style


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Hypolipidemic Agents