NAFLD and increased risk of cardiovascular disease: clinical associations, pathophysiological mechanisms and pharmacological implications.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a public health problem, affecting up to a third of the world’s adult population. Several cohort studies have consistently documented that NAFLD (especially in its more advanced forms) is associated with a higher risk of all-cause mortality and that the leading causes of death among patients with NAFLD are cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), followed by extrahepatic malignancies and liver-related complications. A growing body of evidence also indicates that NAFLD is strongly associated with an increased risk of major CVD events and other cardiac complications (ie, cardiomyopathy, cardiac valvular calcification and cardiac arrhythmias), independently of traditional cardiovascular risk factors. This narrative review provides an overview of the literature on: (1) the evidence for an association between NAFLD and increased risk of cardiovascular, cardiac and arrhythmic complications, (2) the putative pathophysiological mechanisms linking NAFLD to CVD and other cardiac complications and (3) the current pharmacological treatments for NAFLD that might also benefit or adversely affect risk of CVD.