Purpose: To assess the impact of sex-specific patterns in cholesterol levels on all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in the Vorarlberg Health Monitoring and Promotion Programme (VHM&PP).
Methods: In this study, 67413 men and 82237 women (aged 20-95 years) underwent 454448 standardized examinations, which included measures of blood pressure, height, weight, and fasting samples for cholesterol, triglycerides, gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), and glucose in the 15-year period 1985-1999. Relations between these variables and risk of death were analyzed using two approaches of multivariate analyses (Cox proportional hazard and GEE models).
Results: Patterns of cholesterol levels showed marked differences between men and women in relation to age and cause of death. The role of high cholesterol in predicting death from coronary heart disease could be confirmed in men of all ages and in women under the age of 50. In men, across the entire age range, although of borderline significance under the age of 50, and in women from the age of 50 onward only, low cholesterol was significantly associated with all-cause mortality, showing significant associations with death through cancer, liver diseases, and mental diseases. Triglycerides > 200 mg/dl had an effect in women 65 years and older but not in men.
Conclusions: This large-scale population-based study clearly demonstrates the contrasting patterns of cholesterol level in relation to risk, particularly among those less well studied previously, that is, women of all ages and younger people of both sexes. For the first time, we demonstrate that the low cholesterol effect occurs even among younger respondents, contradicting the previous assessments among cohorts of older people that this is a proxy or marker for frailty occurring with age.