Risks For Heart Disease Associated With Size Of LDL Particles

Researchers at the University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine have produced new analyses predicting the risk of heart disease among diverse population groups -- younger women, middle-aged men and older Japanese-American men.

The findings are being presented on March 26 at the 39th Annual American Heart Association (AHA) Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention in Orlando, Florida.

The analyses are based on results from several studies showing that for every nanometer decrease in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particle diameter or size, heart disease risk increases from 30 to 230 percent, depending on the population studied.

LDL particles carry the "bad cholesterol" through the bloodstream. Smaller LDL particles may more easily become trapped in blood vessel walls than larger ones, possibly increasing risk for atherosclerosis. LDL particle size is determined using a technique called gradient gel electrophoresis that separates LDL particles obtained from blood samples by their diameter and shape.

The UW researchers have analyzed data from three different population groups. In a case-control study of 231 primarily Caucasian women aged 20-44 in Western Washington, blood samples from women with heart disease had smaller LDL size than control women in the same age group. A one-nanometer decrease in LDL size was associated with a more than two-fold risk for heart disease. The relationship remained after taking into account smoking, diabetes, hypertension and LDL cholesterol level, but was reduced substantially after taking into account triglycerides (another form of fat carried in the bloodstream) or high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, known as the "good cholesterol".

"Many people think heart disease occurs mainly in men, but heart disease is also the number-one cause of death among women in this country," says Dr. Melissa Austin, profes

Contact: Ellen Liang
University of Washington

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