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Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and increased risk of cardiovascular disease

  • Giovanni Targher
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author at: Division of Internal Medicine and Diabetes Unit, Ospedale “Sacro Cuore – don Calabria”, Via Sempreboni, 5, 37024 Negrar (VR), Italy. Tel.: +39 045 6013713; fax: +39 045 6013713.
    Affiliations
    Division of Internal Medicine, “Sacro Cuore” Hospital of Negrar (VR), Italy
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  • Guido Arcaro
    Affiliations
    Division of Internal Medicine, “Sacro Cuore” Hospital of Negrar (VR), Italy
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      Abstract

      Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is present in up to one-third of the general population and in the majority of patients with cardio-metabolic risk factors such as abdominal obesity, type 2 diabetes and other components of the metabolic syndrome (MetS). Currently, the importance of NAFLD and its relationship to the MetS is increasingly recognized, and this has stimulated an interest in the possible role of NAFLD in the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Indeed, the impact of NAFLD on CVD risk deserves particular attention in view of the implications for screening/surveillance strategies in this growing number of patients. Recent evidence suggests that the severity of liver histology in NAFLD patients is closely associated with markers of early atherosclerosis such as greater carotid artery wall thickness and lower endothelial flow-mediated vasodilation independently of classical risk factors and components of the MetS. Moreover, NAFLD is associated with greater overall mortality and independently predicts the risk of future CVD events. Overall, the current body of evidence strongly suggests that NAFLD is likely to be associated with increased CVD risk, and raises the possibility that NAFLD may be not only a marker but also an early mediator of atherosclerosis.

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