Background: Evidence on the association between the non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (non-HDLc)-to-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDLc) ratio (non-HDLc/HDLc) and carotid plaques is still limited. This study aims to assess the relationship between the non-HDLc/HDLc and carotid plaques in a population with a high risk of stroke.
Methods: A cross-sectional study based on the community was conducted in Yangzhou, China. Residents (no younger than 40 years old) underwent questionnaire interviews, physical examinations, and laboratory testing during 2013-2014. The subjects with a high risk of stroke were further selected (at least three of eight risk factors including hypertension, atrial fibrillation, type 2 diabetes mellitus, dyslipidaemia, smoking, lack of exercise, overweight, and family history of stroke) or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or stroke history. Carotid ultrasonography was then performed on the high stroke risk participants. Carotid plaque was defined as a focal carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT) ≥1.5 cm or a discrete structure protruding into the arterial lumen at least 50% of the surrounding cIMT. Logistic regression was employed to evaluate the relationship between the non-HDLc/HDLc and carotid plaques.
Results: Overall, 839 subjects with a high risk of stroke were ultimately included in the analysis, and carotid plaques were identified in 341 (40.6%) of them. Participants in the highest non-HDLc/HDLc tertile group presented a higher proportion of carotid plaques than did those in the other two groups. After adjustment for other confounders, each unit increase in the non-HDLc/HDLc was significantly associated with carotid plaques (OR 1.55, 95%CI 1.28-1.88). In the subgroup analysis, the non-HDLc/HDLc was positively and significantly associated with the presence of carotid plaques in most subgroups. Additionally, the non-HDLc/HDLc interacted significantly with three stratification variables, including sex (OR 1.31 for males vs. OR 2.37 for females, P interaction = 0.016), exercise (OR 1.18 for subjects without lack of exercise vs. OR 1.99 for subjects with lack of exercise, P interaction = 0.004) and heart diseases (OR 1.40 for subjects without heart diseases vs. OR 3.12 for subjects with heart diseases, P interaction = 0.033).
Conclusion: The non-HDLc/HDLc was positively associated with the presence of carotid plaques in a Chinese high stroke risk population. A prospective study or randomized clinical trial of lipid-lowering therapy in the Chinese population is needed to evaluate their causal relationship.