Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease as a potential risk factor of cardiovascular disease

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Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the hepatic component of the metabolic syndrome. The aim of this review is to summarize the available data linking NAFLD with cardiovascular disease (CVD). The following topics are reviewed: (a) the clinical evidence linking NAFLD to increased prevalence of CVD; (b) the relationship between NAFLD (which is diagnosed by liver biopsy, serum liver enzymes, or ultrasonography) and incidence of CVD; (c) the mechanism linking NAFLD to CVD and clinical implication; and (d) the potential impact of NAFLD treatment on cardiac complications. CVD dictates the outcome (or outcomes) in patients with NAFLD more frequently and to a greater extent than does the progression of liver disease. NAFLD patients have a higher risk of all-cause death than the general population, mainly because of CVD or liver-related causes. The biologic mechanism linking NAFLD and CVD might be associated with various factors, involving a complex interaction among insulin resistance, oxidative stress, abnormal adipocytokine profile, endothelial dysfunction, lipid abnormalities, and activation of inflammatory cascade. Lifestyle modifications and pharmacotherapy are helpful to treat patients with NAFLD. NAFLD is likely to be associated with an increased risk of CVD, and raises the possibility that NAFLD may not only be a marker but also an early mediator of CVD.

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