Circulating Markers of Liver Function and Cardiovascular Disease Risk

Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2015 Nov;35(11):2290-6. doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.115.305235. Epub 2015 May 14.


Measurement of serum concentrations of various liver enzymes and other nonenzymatic proteins and metabolites of heme metabolism (eg, bilirubin) is often undertaken in clinical practice. Measurement of these liver function tests is simple, quick, and relatively inexpensive. However, interpreting the liver function test results in patients without evidence of liver disease is often challenging. Concentrations of some of liver enzymes, such as γ-glutamyltransferase or alkaline phosphatase, and concentrations of liver-derived metabolites, such as bilirubin, may be influenced by metabolic processes beyond the liver, sometimes making interpretation of the test results difficult. This scenario frequently occurs both in individuals at risk of cardiovascular disease and in patients with known cardiovascular disease, often resulting in the clinicians ignoring the test results. In this brief review, we discuss the evidence for associations between key serum liver function tests and cardiovascular disease risk and where associations are robust; we provide an interpretation for possible mechanistic links between the liver function test and cardiovascular disease.

Keywords: bilirubin; cardiovascular diseases; gamma-glutamyltransferase; transaminases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Clinical Enzyme Tests*
  • Humans
  • Liver / enzymology*
  • Liver Diseases / blood
  • Liver Diseases / complications*
  • Liver Diseases / diagnosis
  • Liver Function Tests*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors


  • Biomarkers