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The prevalence of cardiovascular disease differs among ethnic groups and along geographic boundaries. At present, most of the projected increase in mortality from cardiovascular disease occurs in sub-Saharan African, Chinese and Southeast Asian populations. Ethnic disparities in the prevalence of cardiovascular disease coincide with quantitative and qualitative differences in risk factors for cardiovascular disease. High plasma cholesterol is one of the most important preventable causes of ischemic heart disease.The current review summarizes recent evidence on ethnic differences in ischemic heart disease and its correlates with genetic and acquired differences in plasma lipid and lipoprotein levels. The nature of ethnic differences in plasma lipid levels, apolipoprotein L1 en lipoprotein(a) [Lp(a)] is outlined, and the effects of lipid-lowering therapy and future efforts and challenges regarding implementation are discussed.Ethnic differences in HDL-cholesterol (HDL-C), triglyceride levels and Lp(a) may impact ethnic differences in cardiovascular disease and result in higher residual risk during lipid-lowering therapy. Further efforts should be made to stimulate the use of statins in both high-income and low-income countries and study their effects in individuals with different ethnic backgrounds.