Common public knowledge tells us that high cholesterol is bad. So, shouldn’t it be a no-brainer that lowering cholesterol levels should be beneficial in seniors? The answer from medical research isn’t that simple.
A recent study conducted by Harvard Medical School, Imperial College London, and Sydney Medical School looked into lowering LDL cholesterol in seniors and its effects on overall health. Before we continue with the study, let’s take a look at cholesterol, specifically LDL cholesterol.
What is LDL Cholesterol?
There are two major types of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol through the body– HDL and LDL. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is commonly referred to as the ‘bad’ cholesterol by the general populace. HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is the ‘good’ cholesterol.
High levels of LDL cholesterol have been linked to:
- Heart attack
- Heart disease
- Other cardiovascular disease risks
Current information on the CDC website even recommends lowering high LDL cholesterol as a way to avoid health complications. So, does lowering LDL cholesterol help improve health outcomes for seniors?
Lowering LDL Cholesterol in Seniors
A recent analysis was conducted from 2015-2020 with randomized controlled trials on cardiovascular outcomes and LDL cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Researchers analyzed the risk for major vascular events (cardiovascular death, myocardial infarction, stroke, or coronary revascularization) per 1 mmol/L reduction in LDL cholesterol. For seniors aged 75 years and older, lipid-lowering was associated with a reduction in cardiovascular events, just as it was in patients younger than 75 years.
The study did not look at the potential benefits of HDL cholesterol levels. HDL cholesterol has been linked to health benefits including lower risks for heart disease and stroke. One issue with approaches to cholesterol lowering is that lowering LDL-cholesterol often leads to lowering HDL-cholesterol, that is, the good cholesterol. Some natural approaches, such as foods, are known to have a beneficial effect on lowering cholesterol while not affecting HDL cholesterol. More work on the role of HDL cholesterol in supporting health, as well as the risks of high levels of LDL cholesterol is needed.
Lower LDL Cholesterol Levels & Better Health
The results from the study may support guideline recommendations for lowering LDL cholesterol levels in seniors, no matter the effect on HDL cholesterol. The data also notes that this includes non-statin treatments in older patients.
While the conclusion seemed easy to reach, the research provided several insights into how LDL cholesterol levels are affected by medication.
This 5-year study included data from 244,000 participants, making the results convincing. While this exact type of study may not need to be conducted again, research into specific statin-lowering (and other related) drugs will continue.
Research at Biofortis
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