Testing and treating a new type of lipid disorder may help patients reduce risk for heart disease, according to a recent review published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Written by Dr. Sotirios Tsimikas from the University of California, this paper reviewed existing evidence on lipoprotein(a)—a specific type of particle that carries fats in the blood. Like low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol, lipoprotein(a) is particularly rich in cholesterol and when elevated, has been linked to increased risk for heart disease. However, research on the issue has been limited and little is known about how to treat it.
The good news, according to Dr. Tsimikas, is that we’ve gotten much closer to understanding the role of lipoprotein(a) when it comes to heart health.
Recent findings suggest that elevated lipoprotein(a) levels increase risk for heart attack and stroke, even in patients with low cholesterol levels. And while lipoprotein(a) levels can vary significantly by patient, research suggests that lipoprotein(a) levels below 30-50mg/dl are ideal to reduce cardiovascular risk.
Research also suggests that cholesterol-lowering statins tend to increase lipoprotein(a), while other drugs like niacin and PCSK9 inhibitors may actually reduce them. But currently, there are no approved medications to specifically lower lipoprotein(a).
Fortunately, awareness of lipoprotein(a) has increased in recent years and experts hope to test potential therapies in clinical trials. The goal of such research, as Dr. Tsimikas explains, is to help patients further reduce their cardiovascular risk.
Currently, lipid tests tend to include low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein or “good” cholesterol and triglycerides. And when patients have less-than-desirable results, treatment can help address these risk factors to improve outcomes. The hope is that testing and treating lipoprotein(a), in addition to well-established risk factors, will one-day help patients further reduce cardiovascular risk and prevent life-threatening heart events.