NAFLD and cardiovascular diseases: a clinical review

Clin Res Cardiol. 2021 Jul;110(7):921-937. doi: 10.1007/s00392-020-01709-7. Epub 2020 Jul 21.


Non-alcoholic fatty liver DISEASE (NAFLD) is the most common chronic liver disease in Western countries and affects approximately 25% of the adult population. Since NAFLD is frequently associated with further metabolic comorbidities such as obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, or dyslipidemia, it is generally considered as the hepatic manifestation of the metabolic syndrome. In addition to its potential to cause liver-related morbidity and mortality, NAFLD is also associated with subclinical and clinical cardiovascular disease (CVD). Growing evidence indicates that patients with NAFLD are at substantial risk for the development of hypertension, coronary heart disease, cardiomyopathy, and cardiac arrhythmias, which clinically result in increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. The natural history of NAFLD is variable and the vast majority of patients will not progress from simple steatosis to fibrosis and end stage liver disease. However, patients with progressive forms of NAFLD, including non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and/or advanced fibrosis, as well as NAFLD patients with concomitant types 2 diabetes are at highest risk for CVD. This review describes the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms linking NAFLD and CVD, discusses the role of NAFLD as a metabolic dysfunction associated cardiovascular risk factor, and focuses on common cardiovascular manifestations in NAFLD patients.

Keywords: Cardiovascular disease; Diabetes; Hyperinsulinemia; Insulin resistance; Metabolic syndrome; NAFLD; Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; Systemic inflammation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Morbidity / trends
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / blood
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / complications*
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / epidemiology
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Rate / trends