Older Americans and Cholesterol
Yale University conducted a study that shows that individuals aged 70 and above has
cholesterol levels that have accurately predicted the risk of heart disease in middle-aged individuals, "appear to
have no such predictive value in the elderly".
Does age make a difference when it comes to the need to worry about Cholesterol?
One might assume that because the elderly seem to get the raw deal when it comes to diseases simply because
their bodies are getting older and "wearing out" that they would also be at a higher risk than younger individuals
when it comes to high cholesterol. What are the true facts?
Is there a relationship between age and cholesterol?
Yale University conducted a study that shows that individuals aged 70 and above has cholesterol levels that have
accurately predicted the risk of heart disease in middle-aged individuals, "appear to have no such predictive value
in the elderly".
This could mean that with so many other health concerns after age 70, being concerned about limiting their
intake of animal food and other cholesterol containing food need not be one of their concerns.
Another study, the Framingham Heart Study, also found that there was no effect of cholesterol in the elderly
(70s and 80s).
The study did show evidence that cholesterol tests taken at age 50 was a good way to determine if they were at
risk for heart disease.
In 2001, data from a Honolulu Heart Program was reported in medical journal The Lancet, challenging the belief
about low blood cholesterol being the key to reducing cardiovascular disease.
If you have a low level of HDL you are at high risk for heart disease and if you have a high level of HDL you have a low risk for heart disease.
Maintaining a healthy diet and proper daily exercise:
Your body produces approximately 1000 milligrams of cholesterol a day, which is one way you receive cholesterol in your body. The second way cholesterol enters your body is by the foods that you eat that contain cholesterol. Foods from animals contain cholesterol such as egg yolks, meat poultry, whole and reduced fat milk and dairy products as well as shellfish. Plant foods do not contain cholesterol.
Generally, most assumptions are that because there is an association between cholesterol levels and
cardiovascular events in middle-aged adults that the same is true for older Adults.
Some studies support this assumption and others do not. Studies variation in conclusions may have to do with the
length of study, the participant’s history of past cardiac events and risk factor variation between studies.
Another determining factor regarding age and cholesterol risk as revealed by studies is that of how extensive
the study is regarding variables other than age such as prebaseline cardiovascular events and whether or not
follow-up was done and how many years after the testing.
American family Physician, September 1, 2005 issue reported how the Cardiovascular Health Study was conducted by
Psaty and associates. This was a multicenter, prospective cohort study done in two phases.
In the study, it was reported that, "Fasting lipid levels, including high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol,
low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglycerides, collected at baseline, as were other physical and
Participants also underwent carotid sonography. Patients were excluded if they had prebaseline myocardial
infarction (MI), stroke, or congestive heart failure." During follow-up study participants were assessed by phone
interview, clinic visits at 6-month intervals.
Assessments identified cardiovascular events, any hospitalizations and also mortality. The follow-up lasted 7.5
When determining whether or not performing cholesterol testing on older adults age 70 and above cost is one
Cost to the individual and cost to the insurance company. The stress such testing does to the elderly must also
be weighted when deciding if the results are conclusive enough to make testing worthwhile.
The bottom line is that the patient and the doctor should make the decision regarding the need for cholesterol
testing weighing all benefits against the risks.