No association between 'bad cholesterol' and elderly deaths, new study says

June 27, 2016, University of South Florida
Space-filling model of the Cholesterol molecule. Credit: RedAndr/Wikipedia

A University of South Florida professor and an international team of experts have found that older people with high levels of a certain type of cholesterol, known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL-C), live as long, and often longer, than their peers with low levels of this same cholesterol.

The findings, which came after analyzing past studies involving more than 68,000 participants over 60 years of age, call into question the "cholesterol hypothesis," which previously suggested people with are more at risk of dying and would need statin drugs to lower their cholesterol.

Appearing online this month in the open access version of the British Medical Journal, the research team's analysis represents the first review of a large group of prior studies on this issue.

"We have known for decades that high total cholesterol becomes a much weaker risk for cardiovascular disease with advancing age," said Diamond. "In this analysis, we focused on the so-called "bad cholesterol" which has been blamed for contributing to heart disease."

According to the authors, either a lack of association or an inverse relationship between LDL-C and cardiovascular deaths was present in each of the studies they evaluated. Subsequently, the research team called for a reevaluation of the need for drugs, such as statins, which are aimed at reducing LDL-C as a step to prevent cardiovascular diseases.

"We found that several studies reported not only a lack of association between low LDL-C, but most people in these studies exhibited an inverse relationship, which means that higher LDL-C among the elderly is often associated with longer life," said Diamond.

Diamond also points out the research that suggests that high cholesterol may be protective against diseases which are common in the elderly. For example, high levels of cholesterol are associated with a lower rate of neurological disorders, such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. Other studies have suggested that high LDL-C may protect against some often fatal diseases, such as cancer and infectious diseases, and that having low LDL-C may increase one's susceptibility to these diseases.

"Our results pose several relevant questions for future," said study leader and co-author health researcher Dr. Uffe Ravnskov. "For example, why is total cholesterol a factor for cardiovascular disease for young and middle-age people, but not for the elderly? Why do a substantial number of with high LDL-C live longer than elderly people with low LDL-C?"

Diamond and colleagues have published a number of studies relating to the use and possible misuse of statins for treating cholesterol. Those studies, including their recent paper published in the medical journal Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology, which demonstrated that the benefits of taking statins have been exaggerated and are misleading.

"Our findings provide a contradiction to the cholesterol hypothesis," concluded Diamond. "That hypothesis predicts that cardiovascular disease starts in middle age as a result of high LDL-C , worsens with aging, and eventually leads to death from . We did not find that trend. If LDL-C is accumulating in arteries over a lifetime to cause heart disease, then why is it that elderly people with the highest LDL-C live the longest? Since people over the age of 60 with high LDL-C live the longest, why should we lower it?"

Explore further: HDL-C prediction of heart disease modulated by TG, LDL-C

Related Stories

HDL-C prediction of heart disease modulated by TG, LDL-C

May 17, 2016
(HealthDay)—The impact of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) on cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk is modulated by triglycerides (TG) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), according to a study published ...

Statins associated with lower risk of cardiac events for some patients, not others

June 20, 2016
Cholesterol-lowering statins were associated with lower risk for major cardiac events in some patients with preexisting ischemic heart disease but not in others, according to an article published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.

New study: Has HDL, the 'good' cholesterol, been hyped?

May 10, 2016
May 10, 2016 - For years, physicians have told patients that HDL (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol) helps protect them from cardiovascular disease (CVD). And the higher the number, the more the protection. HDL, often ...

Barley lowers not one but two types of 'bad cholesterol', review suggests

June 8, 2016
Eating barley or foods containing barley significantly reduced levels of two types of "bad cholesterol" associated with cardiovascular risk, a St. Michael's Hospital research paper has found.

Poor sleep may not add to cholesterol problems, study finds

March 3, 2016
(HealthDay)—Sleepless nights don't appear to be linked to an increase in cholesterol levels, a new study indicates.

US regulators give limited approval to cholesterol drug

July 25, 2015
US regulators on Friday approved a new cholesterol drug called Praluent, made by Sanofi and Regeneron, for people with certain genetic risk factors for heart disease.

Recommended for you

Can stem cells help a diseased heart heal itself? Researchers achieve important milestone

December 14, 2018
A team of Rutgers scientists, including Leonard Lee and Shaohua Li, have taken an important step toward the goal of making diseased hearts heal themselves—a new model that would reduce the need for bypass surgery, heart ...

Your weight history may predict your heart failure risk

December 12, 2018
In a medical records analysis of information gathered on more than 6,000 people, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers conclude that simply asking older adult patients about their weight history at ages 20 and 40 could provide ...

Higher risk of heart attack on Christmas Eve

December 12, 2018
The risk of heart attack peaks at around 10pm on Christmas Eve, particularly for older and sicker people, most likely due to heightened emotional stress, finds a Swedish study in this week's Christmas issue of The BMJ.

Age is the biggest risk for heart disease, but lifestyle and meds have impact

December 12, 2018
Of all the risk factors for heart disease, age is the strongest predictor of potential trouble.

New understanding of mysterious 'hereditary swelling'

December 12, 2018
For the first time ever, biomedical researchers from Aarhus University, Denmark, report cellular defects that lead to a rare disease, hereditary angioedema (HAE), in which patients experience recurrent episodes of swelling ...

Researchers have found that incidence of heart failure was around two-fold higher in people with diabetes

December 11, 2018
Researchers have found that incidence of heart failure was around two-fold higher in people with diabetes.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.