In Older Adults, A Higher Cholesterol Level Is Associated with a Lower Risk of Death

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Yes that’s correct; it’s not a typo!

A recent study has demonstrated that a higher total cholesterol level is associated with a lower risk of death from cancer and non-cardiovascular (heart attacks and stroke) disease in older healthy adults (over 55 years of age).

Researchers studied 5750 older people (age range, 55–99). At the beginning of the study, the average (mean) total and HDL cholesterol levels were 255 and 53 mg/dL, respectively.

After an average follow-up of 14 years, higher total cholesterol levels in those over 65 years of age was associated with a decreasing rate of non-cardiovascular-related and cancer-related deaths. In addition, there was no link between higher cholesterol levels and cardiovascular-related mortality in those aged 55 to 84.

Individuals greater than 85 had an even greater benefit of high cholesterol; higher cholesterol levels actually predicted lower rates of death from heart attacks or strokes.

The important thing to remember from this study is that the cardiovascular risk associated with elevated cholesterol levels weakens as people age. This isn’t a new finding.

A previous study has already demonstrated that higher cholesterol levels don’t correlate with an increased risk of cardiovascular mortality in older patients. They have also shown a lower risk for overall non-cardiovascular death as well. Supporting this is a study showing the reverse observation of low total cholesterol levels contributing to higher non-cardiovascular and cancer mortality in the elderly.

I’m sure this entire cholesterol story seems confusing to many of you. I personally believe the pharmaceutical industry wants to keep it that way. The more fear they can sow, the more likely your physician will prescribe a medicine “just in case”. I know many patients continue taking the medications for the same reason – “just in case”.

These medications are not without risk. They cause muscle weakness, pain, cancer, depression and suicide with the rate of complications only increasing as you age.

The thing to remember is that the older you get, high serum cholesterol levels seem to be actually be protecting your health.

Why would you want to take a pill to get in the way of that?

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Patrick Nemechek, D.O.

Patrick Nemechek, D.O.

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Richard David Feinman
Richard David Feinman
December 21, 2011 11:54 pm

The odds ratios are not particularly impressive. What the studies really show which is, in some way more important, cholesterol does NOT predict CVD mortality. Turning it around, the same weak odds ratios are what are found for all of the things, saturated fat, even trans fat, red meat that are supposed to predict CVD. If the cholesterol-diet heart hypothesis had any substance we would see big numbers, not 0.88 or 1.22 (odds ratios of 1.0 means no effect. Odds ratio for cigarettes and lung disease are in the ballpark of 20).
That’s my take on it.

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