Background and aim: Heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HeFH) is a genetic disease characterized by a heterogeneous phenotype. The assessment of cardiovascular (CV) risk is challenging for HeFH. Cholesterol burden (CB) allows to estimate the lifelong exposure to high levels of cholesterol. The aim of this study was to analyze the distribution of subclinical atherosclerosis and the relationship between atherosclerosis and the CB in a sample of HeFH patients, focusing on sex-related differences. Methods and Results: 154 asymptomatic HeFH subjects underwent coronary-artery-calcium score (CACs) and Doppler ultrasound of carotid and femoral arteries. Yearly lipid profiles and HeHF history were obtained from patients' files in order to calculate total CB. Atherosclerotic burden was defined by the presence of CACs > 0 or by the presence of carotid or femoral plaque. Study population was stratified according to gender. The prevalence of CAC, carotid and femoral atherosclerosis was of 62%, 55% and 56%, respectively. Coronary district was the least involved in women, who had a higher prevalence in carotid atherosclerosis. When two vascular districts were affected, women had an increased prevalence of femoral and carotid atherosclerosis whereas men had a higher prevalence of coronary and femoral atherosclerosis. CB correlated to the presence of atherosclerosis in any of the three vascular districts with a significant increasing trend depending on the number of affected areas. Conclusions: A polyvascular atherosclerotic burden is found in asymptomatic HeFH patients. Gender differences in the territory distribution were observed. The early and lasting exposure to high cholesterol, as expressed by CB, is a major determinant of atherosclerotic burden.
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Nutrition and Dietetics
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine