Decreased plasma lipid levels in a statin-free Danish primary health care cohort between 2001 and 2018

Lipids Health Dis. 2021 Oct 30;20(1):147. doi: 10.1186/s12944-021-01579-6.


Background: Lipid levels in blood have decreased considerably during the past decades in the general population partly due to use of statins. This study aims to investigate the trends in lipid levels between 2001 and 2018 in a statin-free population from primary health care, overall and by sex and age.

Methods: In a cohort of 634,119 patients from general practice with no diagnoses or medical treatments that affected lipid levels of total cholesterol (TC; n = 1,574,339) between 2001 and 2018 were identified. Similarly, measurements of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C; n = 1,302,440), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C; n = 1,417,857) and triglycerides (TG; n = 1,329,477) were identified.

Results: Mean TC decreased from 5.64 mmol/L (95% CI: 5.63-5.65) in 2001 to 5.17 mmol/L (95% CI: 5.16-5.17) in 2018 while LDL-C decreased from 3.67 mmol/L (95% CI: 3.66-3.68) to 3.04 mmol/L (95% CI: 3.03-3.04). Women aged 70-74 years experienced the largest decreases in TC levels corresponding to a decrease of 0.7 mmol/L. The decrease in LDL-C levels was most pronounced in men ≥85 years with a decrease of 0.9 mmol/L. For both genders, TC and LDL-C levels increased with advancing age until around age 50. After menopause the women had higher TC and LDL-C levels than the men. The median (geometric mean) TG level decreased by 0.4 mmol/L from 2001 to 2008, after which it increased slightly by 0.1 mmol/L until 2018. During life the TG levels of the men were markedly higher than the women's until around age 65-70. HDL-C levels showed no trend during the study period.

Conclusions: The levels of TC and LDL-C decreased considerably in a statin-free population from primary health care from 2001 to 2018. These decreases were most pronounced in the elderly population and this trend is not decelerating. For TG, levels have started to increase, after an initial decrease.

Keywords: Cardiovascular disease; Cholesterol; Epidemiology; Lipids; Lipoproteins.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperlipidemias / blood
  • Hyperlipidemias / epidemiology
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Lipoproteins, HDL / blood
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Sex Factors
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Lipids
  • Lipoproteins, HDL
  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • Triglycerides
  • Cholesterol