High density lipoprotein cholesterol is associated with serum cortisol in older people

J Am Geriatr Soc. 1995 Dec;43(12):1345-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.1995.tb06612.x.


Objective: To determine the associations between serum cortisol and HDL cholesterol, other lipoprotein lipids and cardiovascular risk factors, carotid atherosclerosis, and clinical heart disease in older people.

Design: A cross-sectional, observational, ancillary study of the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS).

Population: A total of 245 community-dwelling people, 65 to 89 years old, were recruited consecutively for a 2-month period from the CHS cohort in Forsyth County, North Carolina.

Methods: Cortisol was measured by radioimmunoassay in serum collected between 7:00 and 10:00 AM after an overnight fast. Cortisol levels were correlated with lipoprotein lipids, insulin, glucose, body mass index, waist-hip ratio, prevalent coronary heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and carotid atherosclerosis by B-mode ultrasound.

Results: Serum cortisol was correlated negatively (r = -.24) with body mass index and waist-hip ratio (r = -.16) but was not related significantly to fasting insulin or glucose. Cortisol was not associated significantly with triglyceride and low density lipoprotein cholesterol but showed a positive correlation (r = .21) with high density lipoprotein cholesterol. The relationship between cortisol and high density lipoprotein cholesterol persisted after adjustment for gender, body mass index, waist-hip ratio, cigarette and alcohol use, triglyceride level, and diabetes. There was a trend toward a negative correlation between cortisol and measures of carotid atherosclerosis, but no significant relationship was indicated between cortisol and prevalent coronary heart disease, hypertension, or diabetes.

Conclusion: Endogenous glucocorticoid levels correlated with HDL cholesterol levels and may play a role in the physiologic regulation of high density lipoprotein levels in older people.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Body Constitution
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Carotid Stenosis / blood
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood*
  • Coronary Disease / blood
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood*
  • Hypertension / blood
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Hydrocortisone