Cholesterol management in theory and practice
The preponderance of evidence confirms the importance of aggressive lipid modification in patients at risk for coronary heart disease (CHD). However, data suggest that this information is underimplemented in the clinical setting, even in patients with existing CHD, in whom the greatest benefit of such treatment has been shown. The fact that many practitioners do not pursue a proven treatment strategy in patients who qualify must be redressed through education and reinforcement of existing recommendations. In the present review, the current clinical and mechanistic understanding of the benefit of aggressive lipid management is summarized, with a focus on the clinical implications of recent findings. These include growing public awareness of cholesterol as a modifiable CHD risk factor, recommendations for earlier and more aggressive intervention in patients with existing disease, and discussion of the cost-effectiveness of lipid-regulating therapy. Despite the secular trend of declining CHD morbidity and mortality rates in recent years, CHD remains the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States. It is imperative to prevent any reduction in public focus on primary and secondary prevention.