Besides measuring blood pressure and glucose levels, assessing the lipid spectrum is the method most commonly used to identify individuals at high risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), as well as those who are likely to benefit most from lipid-lowering therapy. Although lowering LDL-cholesterol levels is the primary target of therapy in most clinical guidelines, accumulating evidence indicates that other lipoprotein-lipid measurements could provide a predictive value over and above that of LDL-cholesterol levels. For example, individuals treated with statins who achieve low LDL-cholesterol levels, but have high concentrations of either non-HDL cholesterol or apolipoprotein (apo) B, remain at increased cardiovascular risk. Similarly, individuals with low levels of either HDL cholesterol or apo A-I are also likely to experience cardiovascular events, despite having normal LDL-cholesterol levels. The residual cardiovascular risk, beyond that characterized by LDL-cholesterol levels alone, is exacerbated by physical inactivity and abdominal obesity, which are both increasingly prevalent risk factors for CVD. In this Review, we discuss the measurement of various lipoprotein-lipid parameters for the prediction of CVD risk, and their importance in identifying those patients who are likely to benefit from lipid-lowering therapy. The impact of recent studies on clinical guidelines is also considered.
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