'Ugly' cholesterol may triple risk of heart disease: study

'Ugly' cholesterol may triple risk of heart disease: study

People with high levels of 'ugly' cholesterol face three times increased risk of developing ischemic heart disease, the most common cardiovascular disease.

Cholesterol is divided into 'the good' HDL cholesterol, 'the bad' LDL cholesterol and 'the ugly' cholesterol. It is the so-called 'ugly cholesterol' - also called 'remnant cholesterol' - that can be really harmful.

"LDL cholesterol or 'the bad cholesterol' is of course bad, but our new study reveals that the ugly cholesterol likewise is the direct cause of atherosclerosis resulting in ischemic heart disease and early death," said Professor Borge Nordestgaard from the University of Copenhagen.

"By examining 73,000 persons, we found that an increase in the ugly cholesterol triples the risk of ischemic heart disease, which is caused by lack of oxygen to the heart muscle due to narrowing or blocking of the coronary arteries," he said.

"I hope that this new knowledge will lead to better preventive treatment including lifestyle changes, as more than one in five individuals in affluent countries suffers from high ugly cholesterol," he said.

"We also hope that the pharmaceutical industry will develop new drugs targeted specifically at raised ugly cholesterol levels," he emphasises," he added.

"High ugly cholesterol is the result of high blood levels of normal fat (triglycerides). The most important cause of high ugly cholesterol is overweight and obesity. Persons with high ugly cholesterol should therefore be advised to lose weight, but drugs such as statins and fibrates may also lower levels of ugly cholesterol in the blood," says Borge Nordestgaard.

"To be able to examine the relationship between ugly cholesterol and heart disease, we have used blood samples from persons having a mutation which means that they suffer from high ugly cholesterol their entire life," said researcher Anette Varbo.

"The research findings do therefore not depend on their lifestyle patterns in general. Unhealthy lifestyle factors such as smoking, fatty foods and overweight all increase the risk of heart disease, and the blood samples from persons having these mutations thus give the most accurate results," Varbo added.

The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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