High cholesterol much more dangerous
for middle-aged men than women
These men should be treated more
aggressively than what often is the case today
Aug. 16, 2013 - Living with high cholesterol levels
is much more dangerous for middle-aged men than it is for middle-aged
women, at least when it comes to having a first heart attack, according
to a new study of more than 40,000 Norwegians.
The study, just published in the
September issue of
shows that being a middle-aged male and having high cholesterol levels
results in a negative synergistic effect that the researchers did not
observe in women. However, current clinical guidelines for treating
high cholesterol levels do not differentiate between men and women.
Middle age risks for men
"Our results suggest that in middle
age, high cholesterol levels are much more detrimental for men than
women, so that prevention efforts in this age group will have a greater
potential to reduce the occurrence of a first heart attack in men," said
from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU)
Department of Circulation and Medical Imaging, who was first author of
the paper with
Laugsand, also from NTNU.
The researchers used data from the
Health Study, a county-wide survey carried out in 1995-1997
in Nord Trøndelag, Norway, that included blood sample collection from
Because the researchers
hypothezised that female sex hormones could possibly protect women with
respect to the prevalence of first heart attacks, they restricted their
analysis to participants who were younger than 60 years old at the time
of the survey.
More than three times more heart
In the end, the researchers had
information from 23,525 women and 20,725 men who fit this category.
During the nearly 12 years of follow-up on the participants who were
younger than 60 years when the survey was conducted, there were 157 new
cases of heart attacks in women and 553 in men.
They also conducted a secondary
analysis of participants who were 60 years old or older at the time of
the survey, which gave them another 20,138 individuals for the analysis.
However, there was no evidence of a negative synergistic effect in male
participants in this age group.
"Our findings suggest that
middle-aged men with an unfortunate cholesterol profile have a
significant additional risk of myocardial infarction than what
previously has been thought," Madssen and Laugsand said.
"Thus, these men should be treated
more aggressively than what often is the case today, so that more
infarctions can be prevented and lives can be saved."
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