High Cholesterol Causes More Heart Attacks in Men Than in Women

Published Online: Thursday, October 10, 2013
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Men with high cholesterol may be 3 times more likely to suffer a heart attack than women with high cholesterol, a recent Norwegian study found.

Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology analyzed blood test results and health information for 23,525 women and 20,725 men 60 years and younger, looking for differences in dyslipidemia and heart attack risk. The findings were published in the September 2013 issue of Epidemiology.

After 12 years of follow-up, over 500 men suffered a heart attack, compared with just 157 women. The results indicated that men with high cholesterol were significantly more likely to have a heart attack than women with high cholesterol. The proportion of heart attack cases that could be attributed to this increased risk among men was 0.46 for high total serum cholesterol, 0.23 for low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and 0.52 for high non-HDL cholesterol. Obesity and hypertension, however, were shown to have similar risks for heart attack in both men and women.

The authors of the study suggest that female sex hormones may protect women against heart attacks, despite a high cholesterol level. They note that currently, clinical guidelines for treating high cholesterol do not distinguish between men and women, but that preventing dyslipidemia in men may prevent more heart attacks.

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