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13-02-2011 | Cardiometabolic | Article

High HDL cholesterol at middle age associated with longer life in men


Free abstract

MedWire News: US researchers report that men with higher levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol in middle age are less likely to die before they reach 85 years than men with lower levels.

Catherine Rahilly-Tierney (Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiology and Research Information Center, Boston) and colleagues show that the risk of dying before 85 years was nearly 30% less in men who had high HDL cholesterol (≥50 mg/dl [1.30 mmol/l]) levels at middle age (56-76 years), than in those with the lowest HDL cholesterol levels (<40 mg/dl [1.04 mmol/l]).

The researchers used data on 652 men (average age 65 years), from the VA Normative Aging Study (VANAS) cohort, who had more than one HDL cholesterol measure documented between 1979 and 1999, and who could have reached 85 years of age by the end of the follow-up period (July 2008), and assigned them to three HDL cholesterol categories based on average measures at middle age: <40 mg/dl, ≥40-<50 mg/dl, or ≥50 mg/dl.

Information on comorbidities, lifestyle factors, lipid parameters, and medications were also collected for all participants.

The researchers found that men in the highest HDL cholesterol category at middle age were 28% less likely to die before they reached 85 years of age than those with HDL cholesterol levels less than 40 mg/dl. Furthermore, every 10 mg/dl (0.26 mmol/l) increase in HDL was associated with a 14% decreased risk for mortality before 85 years.

The authors speculate that the most likely mechanism by which HDL cholesterol is associated with longevity is its protective effect against cardiovascular disease.

They write: "In examining the cause of death of those who did not survive to 85 years of age, we found that the most prevalent cause was cardiovascular death, including ischemic heart disease, other nonischemic cardiac causes, and cerebrovascular causes."

The group also identified that nonsurvivors were more likely to smoke, drink more than two alcoholic drinks a day, or have hypertension, cerebrovascular disease, or coronary heart disease at initial examination.

The team concludes: "Our findings suggest that lifestyle contributes in part to longevity by the impact of lifestyle factors on HDL cholesterol."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Nikki Withers