Cardiometabolic Research Institute

Houston, TX, United States

Cardiometabolic Research Institute

Houston, TX, United States
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A recent explosion in the amount of cardiovascular risk and incipient, undetected subclinical cardiovascular pathology has swept across the globe. Nearly 70% of adult Americans are overweight or obese; the prevalence of visceral obesity stands at 53% and continues to rise. At any one time, 55% of the population is on a weight-loss diet, and almost all fail. Fewer than 15% of adults or children exercise sufficiently, and over 60% engage in no vigorous activity. Among adults, 11%-13% have diabetes, 34% have hypertension, 36% have prehypertension, 36% have prediabetes, 12% have both prediabetes and prehypertension, and 15% of the population with either diabetes, hypertension, or dyslipidemia are undiagnosed. About one-third of the adult population, and 80% of the obese, have fatty livers. With 34% of children overweight or obese, prevalence having doubled in just a few years, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and fatty livers in children are at their highest levels ever. Half of adults have at least one cardiovascular risk factor. Not even 1% of the population attains ideal cardiovascular health. Despite falling coronary death rates for decades, coronary heart disease (CHD) death rates in US women 35 to 54 years of age may now be increasing because of the obesity epidemic. Up to 65% of patients do not have their conventional risk biomarkers under control. Only 30% of high risk patients with CHD achieve aggressive low density lipoprotein (LDL) targets. Of those patients with multiple risk factors, fewer than 10% have all of them adequately controlled. Even when patients are titrated to evidence-based targets, about 70% of cardiac events remain unaddressed. Undertreatment is also common. About two-thirds of high risk primary care patients are not taking needed medications for dyslipidemia. Poor patient adherence, typically below 50%, adds further difficulty. Hence, after all such fractional reductions are multiplied, only a modest portion of total cardiovascular risk burden is actually being eliminated, and the full potential of risk reduction remains unrealized. Worldwide the situation is similar, with the prevalence of metabolic syndrome approaching 50%. Primordial prevention, resulting from healthful lifestyle habits that do not permit the appearance of risk factors, is the preferred method to lower cardiovascular risk. Lowering the prevalence of obesity is the most urgent matter, and is pleiotropic since it affects blood pressure, lipid profiles, glucose metabolism, inflammation, and atherothrombotic disease progression. Physical activity also improves several risk factors, with the additional potential to lower heart rate. Given the current obstacles, success of primordial prevention remains uncertain. At the same time, the consequences of delay and inaction will inevitably be disastrous, and the sense of urgency mounts. Since most CHD events arise in a large subpopulation of low- to moderate-risk individuals, identifying a high proportion of those who will go on to develop events with accuracy remains unlikely. Without a refinement in risk prediction, the current model of targeting high-risk individuals for aggressive therapy may notsucceed alone, especially given the rising burden of risk. Estimating cardiovascular risk over a period of 10 years, using scoring systems such as Framingham or SCORE, continues to enjoy widespread use and is recommended for all adults. Limitations in the former have been of concern, including the under- or over-estimation of risk in specific populations, a relatively short 10-year risk horizon, focus on myocardial infarction and CHD death, and exclusion of family history. Classification errors may occur in up to 37% of individuals, particularly women and the young. Several different scoring systems are discussed in this review. The use of lifetime risk is an important conceptual advance, since ≥90% of young adults with a low 10-year risk have a lifetime risk of ≥39%; over half of all American adults have a low 10-year risk but a high lifetime risk. At age 50 the absence of traditional risk factors is associated with extremely low lifetime risk and significantly greater longevity. Pathological and epidemiological data confirm that atherosclerosis begins in early childhood, and advances seamlessly and inexorably throughout life. Risk factors in childhood are similar to those in adults, and track between stages of life. When indicated, aggressive treatment should begin at the earliest indication, and be continued for years. For those patients at intermediate risk according to global risk scores, C-reactive protein (CRP), coronary artery calcium (CAC), and carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT) are available for further stratification. Using statins for primary prevention is recommended by guidelines, is prevalent, but remains underprescribed. Statin drugs are unrivaled, evidence-based, major weapons to lower cardiovascular risk. Even when low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) targets are attained, over half of patients continue to have disease progression and clinical events. This residual risk is of great concern, and multiple sources of remaining risk exist. Though clinical evidence is incomplete, altering or raising the blood high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) level continues to be pursued. Of all agents available, rosuvastatin produces the greatest reduction in LDL-C, LDL-P, and improvement in apoA-I/apoB, together with a favorable safety profile. Several recent proposals and methods to lower cardiovascular risk are reviewed. A combination of approaches, such as the addition of lifetime risk, refinement of risk prediction, guideline compliance, novel treatments, improvement in adherence, and primordial prevention, including environmental and social intervention, will be necessary to lower the present high risk burden. © 2011 Kones, publisher and licensee Dove Medical Press Ltd.


Residual risk, the ongoing appreciable risk of major cardiovascular events (MCVE) in statin-treated patients who have achieved evidence-based lipid goals, remains a concern among cardiologists. Factors that contribute to this continuing risk are atherogenic non-low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles and atherogenic processes unrelated to LDL cholesterol, including other risk factors, the inherent properties of statin drugs, and patient characteristics, ie, genetics and behaviors. In addition, providers, health care systems, the community, public policies, and the environment play a role. Major statin studies suggest an average 28% reduction in LDL cholesterol and a 31% reduction in relative risk, leaving a residual risk of about 69%. Incomplete reductions in risk, and failure to improve conditions that create risk, may result in ongoing progression of atherosclerosis, with new and recurring lesions in original and distant culprit sites, remodeling, arrhythmias, rehospitalizations, invasive procedures, and terminal disability. As a result, identification of additional agents to reduce residual risk, particularly administered together with statin drugs, has been an ongoing quest. The current model of atherosclerosis involves many steps during which disease may progress independently of guideline-defined elevations in LDL cholesterol. Differences in genetic responsiveness to statin therapy, differences in ability of the endothelium to regenerate and repair, and differences in susceptibility to nonlipid risk factors, such as tobacco smoking, hypertension, and molecular changes associated with obesity and diabetes, may all create residual risk. A large number of inflammatory and metabolic processes may also provide eventual therapeutic targets to lower residual risk. Classically, epidemiologic and other evidence suggested that raising high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol would be cardioprotective. When LDL cholesterol is aggressively lowered to targets, low HDL cholesterol levels are still inversely related to MCVE. The efflux capacity, or ability to relocate cholesterol out of macrophages, is believed to be a major antiatherogenic mechanism responsible for reduction in MCVE mediated in part by healthy HDL. HDL cholesterol is a complex molecule with antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, antithrombotic, antiplatelet, and vasodilatory properties, among which is protection of LDL from oxidation. HDL-associated paraoxonase-1 has a major effect on endothelial function. Further, HDL promotes endothelial repair and progenitor cell health, and supports production of nitric oxide. HDL from patients with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and autoimmune disease may fail to protect or even become proinflammatory or pro-oxidant. Mendelian randomization and other clinical studies in which raising HDL cholesterol has not been beneficial suggest that high plasma levels do not necessarily reduce cardiovascular risk. These data, coupled with extensive preclinical information about the functional heterogeneity of HDL, challenge the "HDL hypothesis", ie, raising HDL cholesterol per se will reduce MCVE. After the equivocal AIM-HIGH (Atherothrombosis Intervention in Metabolic Syndrome With Low HDL/High Triglycerides: Impact on Global Health Outcomes) study and withdrawal of two major cholesteryl ester transfer protein compounds, one for off-target adverse effects and the other for lack of efficacy, development continues for two other agents, ie, anacetrapib and evacetrapib, both of which lower LDL cholesterol substantially. The negative but controversial HPS2-THRIVE (the Heart Protection Study 2-Treatment of HDL to Reduce the Incidence of Vascular Events) trial casts further doubt on the HDL cholesterol hypothesis. The growing impression that HDL functionality, rather than abundance, is clinically important is supported by experimental evidence highlighting the conditional pleiotropic actions of HDL. Non-HDL cholesterol reflects the cholesterol in all atherogenic particles containing apolipoprotein B, and has outperformed LDL cholesterol as a lipid marker of cardiovascular risk and future mortality. In addition to including a measure of residual risk, the advantages of using non-HDL cholesterol as a primary lipid target are now compelling. Reinterpretation of data from the Treating to New Targets study suggests that better control of smoking, body weight, hypertension, and diabetes will help lower residual risk. Although much improved, control of risk factors other than LDL cholesterol currently remains inadequate due to shortfalls in compliance with guidelines and poor patient adherence. More efficient and greater use of proven simple therapies, such as aspirin, beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers, combined with statin therapy, may be more fruitful in improving outcomes than using other complex therapies. Comprehensive, intensive, multimechanistic, global, and national programs using primordial, primary, and secondary prevention to lower the total level of cardiovascular risk are necessary. © 2013 Kones.


Kones R.,Cardiometabolic Research Institute
Nutrition in Clinical Practice | Year: 2010

Pathological hallmarks of Parkinsong's disease are destruction of dopaminergic neurons in the basal ganglia, especially the substantia nigra, and the presence of Lewy bodies within nerve cells. Environmental toxins are associated with the disease and, in a minority of cases, genetic factors have been identified. Inflammation-with activation of phagocytic microglia, release of cytokines, invasion by T cells, and complement activation- plays a role in damaging these neurons. Excessive production of reactive oxygen species, mitochondrial dysfunction leading to apoptosis, accumulation and oligomerization of the protein α-synuclein, and defective protein disposal by the ubiquitin proteasome system are involved in the complex web of events mediating nigral cell demise. Two agents of current interest, coenzyme Q10 and creatine, may be disease modifying, and large studies are in progress. Related mechanisms of other substances, including ω-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, are included in this review. The association with serum cholesterol levels and the effects of statin drugs are uncertain but important. © 2010 American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.


Kones R.,Cardiometabolic Research Institute | Rumana U.,Cardiometabolic Research Institute
Drugs | Year: 2015

Abstract Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death in most countries, with the high prevalence currently driven by dual epidemics of obesity and diabetes. Statin drugs, the most effective, evidence-based agents to prevent and treat this disease, have a central role in management and are advised in all published guidelines. The 2013 American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) cholesterol and assessment guidelines ('new ACC/AHA guidelines') emphasized global cardiovascular (CV) risk reduction as opposed to targeting low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C) levels, stressed the use of statins in two dose intensities, utilized a new risk calculator using pooled cohort equations, and lowered the risk cutoff for initiation of statin therapy. Although there were major strengths of the new ACC/AHA guidelines, substantial controversy followed their release, particulars of which are discussed in this review. They were generally regarded as improvements in an ongoing transition using evidenced-based data for maximum patient benefit. Several guidelines, other than the ACC/AHA guidelines, currently provide practitioners with choices, some depending on practice locations. Cholesterol control with statin drugs is used in all paradigms. However, some patients respond inadequately, approximately 15 % are intolerant, and other factors prevent attaining cholesterol goals in as many as 40 % of patients. Even after treatment, substantial residual risk for ongoing major events remains. Another readily available modality that can rival statin drugs in effectiveness is vast improvement in diet and lifestyle within the general population; however, despite great effort, existing programs to implement such changes have failed. Hence, despite unrivaled success, there is great need for additional drugs to prevent and treat CHD, whether as monotherapy or in combination with statin drugs. New American guidelines do not discuss or recommend any nonstatin drugs for CHD, and the US FDA has moved away from approving drugs based solely on changes in surrogates in the absence of clinical outcomes trials. Both have significantly altered the realities of developing pharmacotherapies and cardiology practice. © 2015 Springer International Publishing Switzerland.


Merino J.,University of Barcelona | Kones R.,Cardiometabolic Research Institute | Ferre R.,University of Barcelona | Plana N.,University of Barcelona | And 5 more authors.
British Journal of Nutrition | Year: 2013

Low-carbohydrate diets have become increasingly popular for weight loss. Although they may improve some metabolic markers, particularly in type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2D) or the metabolic syndrome (MS), their net effect on arterial wall function remains unclear. The objective was to evaluate the relation between dietary macronutrient composition and the small artery reactive hyperaemia index (saRHI), a marker of small artery endothelial function, in a cohort of patients at increased cardiovascular (CV) risk. The present cross-sectional study included 247 patients. Diet was evaluated by a 3-d food-intake register and reduced to a novel low-carbohydrate diet score (LCDS). Physical examination, demographic, biochemical and anthropometry parameters were recorded, and the saRHI was measured in each patient. Individuals in the lowest LCDS quartile (Q1, 45 % carbohydrate; 20 % protein; 32 % fat) had higher saRHI values than those in the top quartile (Q4, 29 % carbohydrate, 24 % protein, 40 % fat; 1·66 (sd 0·41) v. 1·52 (sd 0·22), P= 0·037). These results were particularly strong in patients with the MS (Q1 = 1·82 (sd 0·32) v. Q4 = 1·61 (sd 027); P= 0·021) and T2D (Q1 = 1·78 (sd 0·31) v. Q4 = 1·62 (sd 0·35); P= 0·011). Multivariate analysis demonstrated that individuals in the highest LCDS quartile had a significantly negative coefficient of saRHI, which was independent of confounders (OR - 0·85; 95 % CI 0·19, 0·92; P= 0·031). These findings suggest that a dietary pattern characterised by a low amount of carbohydrate, but high amounts of protein and fat, is associated with a poorer small artery vascular reactivity in patients with increased CV risk. Copyright © The Authors 2012.


Kones R.,Cardiometabolic Research Institute
American Journal of Medicine | Year: 2011

For about 100 years, inhaled oxygen has been administered to all patients suspected of having an acute myocardial infarction. The basis for this practice was the belief that oxygen supplementation raised often-deficient arterial oxygen content to improve myocardial oxygenation, thereby reducing infarct size. This assumption is conditional and not evidence-based. While such physiological changes may pertain in some patients who are hypoxemic, considerable data suggest that oxygen therapy may be detrimental in others. Acute oxygen therapy may raise blood pressure and lower cardiac index, heart rate, cardiac oxygen consumption, and blood flow in the cerebral and renal beds. Oxygen also may lower capillary density and redistribute blood in the microcirculation. Several reports now confirm that these changes occur in humans. In patients with both acute coronary syndromes and stable coronary disease, oxygen administration may constrict the coronary vessels, lower myocardial oxygen delivery, and may actually worsen ischemia. There are no large, contemporary, randomized studies that examine clinical outcomes after this intervention. Hence, this long-accepted but potentially harmful tradition urgently needs reevaluation. Clinical guidelines appear to be changing, favoring use of oxygen only in hypoxemic patients, and then cautiously titrating to individual oxygen tensions. © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Kones R.,Cardiometabolic Research Institute | Rumana U.,Cardiometabolic Research Institute
Hospital practice (1995) | Year: 2014

This article presents core epidemiological studies that establish the basis for cardiovascular prevention strategies. The results of the classic INTERHEART and INTERSTROKE studies that delineated population-attributed risk for myocardial infarction and stroke are described. Differences in the levels or types of prevention-primordial, primary, and secondary-lead to the concept that risk occurs on a continuum throughout life with great variability, beginning in infancy. Any meaningful and sustained reduction in cardiovascular risk must begin in childhood, as habits formed early in life have an impact for decades. Although it is never too late to improve unhealthy habits, interventions early in life are more likely to be effective in preventing disease from developing, in delaying manifestations, or in reversing pathology through evidence-based therapies that are applied later. There is compelling evidence that coronary atherosclerosis, heart disease related to diabetes, and hypertension begin with endothelial activation. Oxidative stress and reduced nitric oxide availability are also among the earliest of events, from which a self-amplifying web of events proceed. The American Heart Association, even prior to its now-validated and classic definition of risk metrics, developed a strategic plan to improve health habits in the population and at the community level for promoting and monitoring behavior change and patients' self-reported health status. Other initiatives for improving cardiovascular health are in place as well. Despite improvements in treatment of risk factors, there has been minimal, if any, success in reversing the dual epidemics of obesity and diabetes. These 2 factors continue to drive the high burden of cardiovascular risk, and now lead current public health issues. Because treatment alone cannot fully address this tsunami of risk, it has been suggested that all physicians assume an unprecedented and aggressive role as advocates for behavior change to prevail against the foes of obesity and diabetes.


Kones R.,Cardiometabolic Research Institute | Rumana U.,Cardiometabolic Research Institute
Drugs | Year: 2015

Since their introduction, statin (HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor) drugs have advanced the practice of cardiology to unparalleled levels. Even so, coronary heart disease (CHD) still remains the leading cause of death in developed countries, and is predicted to soon dominate the causes of global mortality and disability as well. The currently available non-statin drugs have had limited success in reversing the burden of heart disease, but new information suggests they have roles in sizeable sub-populations of those affected. In this review, the status of approved non-statin drugs and the significant potential of newer drugs are discussed. Several different ways to raise plasma high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (HDL-C) levels have been proposed, but disappointments are now in large part attributed to a preoccupation with HDL quantity, rather than quality, which is more important in cardiovascular (CV) protection. Niacin, an old drug with many antiatherogenic properties, was re-evaluated in two imperfect randomized controlled trials (RCTs), and failed to demonstrate clear effectiveness or safety. Fibrates, also with an attractive antiatherosclerotic profile and classically used for hypertriglyceridemia, lacks evidence-based proof of efficacy, save for a sub-group of diabetic patients with atherogenic dyslipidemia. Omega-3 fatty acids fall into this category as well, even with an impressive epidemiological evidence base. Omega-3 research has been plagued with methodological difficulties yielding tepid, uncertain, and conflicting results; well-designed studies over longer periods of time are needed. Addition of ezetimibe to statin therapy has now been shown to decrease levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (LDL-C), accompanied by a modest decrease in the number of CV events, though without any improvement in CV mortality. Importantly, the latest data provide crucial evidence that LDL lowering is central to the management of CV disease. Of drugs that inhibit cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) tested thus far, two have failed and two remain under investigation and may yet prove to be valuable therapeutic agents. Monoclonal antibodies to proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9, now in phase III trials, lower LDL-C by over 50% and are most promising. These drugs offer new ability to lower LDL-C in patients in whom statin drug use is, for one reason or another, limited or insufficient. Mipomersen and lomitapide have been approved for use in patients with familial hypercholesterolemia, a more common disease than appreciated. Anti-inflammatory drugs are finally receiving due attention in trials to elucidate potential clinical usefulness. All told, even though statins remain the standard of care, non-statin drugs are poised to assume a new, vital role in managing dyslipidemia. © Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015.


Kones R.,Cardiometabolic Research institute
Clinical Pharmacology: Advances and Applications | Year: 2010

Progressive destruction of neurons that produce dopamine in the basal ganglia of the brain, particularly the substantia nigra, is a hallmark of Parkinson's disease. The syndrome of the Parkinsonian phenotype is caused by many etiologies, involving multiple contributing mechanisms. Characteristic findings are pathologic inclusions called Lewy bodies, which are protein aggregates inside nerve cells. Environmental insults are linked with the disease, and a number of associated genes have also been identified. Neuroinflammation, microglia activation, oxidative stress, and mitochondrial dysfunction are central processes producing nerve damage. In addition, protein misfolding, driven by accumulation and condensation of α-synuclein, compounded by inadequate elimination of defective protein through the ubiquitin-proteasome system, promote apoptosis. Current pharmacologic therapy is palliative rather than disease-modifying, and typically becomes unsatisfactory over time. Coenzyme Q10 and creatine, two agents involved in energy production, may be disease-modifying, and able to produce sufficient beneficial pathophysiologic changes in preclinical studies to warrant large studies now in progress. Use of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D in PD are also topics of current interest. © 2010 Kones, publisher and licensee Dove Medical Press Ltd.


The objectives in treating angina are relief of pain and prevention of disease progression through risk reduction. Mechanisms, indications, clinical forms, doses, and side effects of the traditional antianginal agents - nitrates, β-blockers, and calcium channel blockers - are reviewed. A number of patients have contraindications or remain unrelieved from anginal discomfort with these drugs. Among newer alternatives, ranolazine, recently approved in the United States, indirectly prevents the intracellular calcium overload involved in cardiac ischemia and is a welcome addition to available treatments. None, however, are disease-modifying agents. Two options for refractory angina, enhanced external counterpulsation and spinal cord stimulation (SCS), are presented in detail. They are both well-studied and are effective means of treating at least some patients with this perplexing form of angina. Traditional modifiable risk factors for coronary artery disease (CAD) - smoking, hypertension, dyslipidemia, diabetes, and obesity - account for most of the population-attributable risk. Individual therapy of highrisk patients differs from population-wide efforts to prevent risk factors from appearing or reducing their severity, in order to lower the national burden of disease. Current American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association guidelines to lower risk in patients with chronic angina are reviewed. The Clinical Outcomes Utilizing Revascularization and Aggressive Drug Evaluation (COURAGE) trial showed that in patients with stable angina, optimal medical therapy alone and percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) with medical therapy were equal in preventing myocardial infarction and death. The integration of COURAGE results into current practice is discussed. For patients who are unstable, with very high risk, with left main coronary artery lesions, in whom medical therapy fails, and in those with acute coronary syndromes, PCI is indicated. Asymptomatic patients with CAD and those with stable angina may defer intervention without additional risk to see if they will improve on optimum medical therapy. For many patients, coronary artery bypass surgery offers the best opportunity for relieving angina, reducing the need for additional revascularization procedures and improving survival. Optimal medical therapy, percutaneous coronary intervention, and surgery are not competing therapies, but are complementary and form a continuum, each filling an important evidence-based need in modern comprehensive management. © 2010 Kones, publisher and licensee Dove Medical Press Ltd.

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