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Middle-Age Men With High Cholesterol At Greater Risk for Heart Disease

Update Date: Aug 16, 2013 12:29 PM EDT

High cholesterol affects men more than women.  New research reveals that middle-age men with high cholesterol are significantly more likely to suffer heart attacks than middle-age women with high cholesterol.

The study, which involved 40,000 Norwegian men and women, found a negative synergistic effect in middle-aged men with high cholesterol levels.  However, researchers did not find the same effect in middle-aged women with high cholesterol.

"Our results suggest that in middle age, high cholesterol levels are much more detrimental for men than women, so that prevention efforts in this age group will have a greater potential to reduce the occurrence of a first heart attack in men," lead researcher Erik Madssen from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) Department of Circulation and Medical Imaging, said in a news release.

The study used data from the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study, a countywide survey carried out from 1995 to 1997 in Nord Trøndelag, Norway, which included blood sample collection from 65,000 people.

Researchers restricted their analysis to participants who were younger than 60 years old because they hypothesized female sex hormones might protect women from first heart attacks.

The study found 157 new cases of heart attacks in women and 553 in men at 12 years of follow-up. Researchers also conducted a secondary analysis of participants who were 60 years old or older at the time of the survey, which gave them another 20,138 individuals for the analysis. However, researchers found no evidence of a negative synergistic effect in male participants older than 60.

"Our findings suggest that middle-aged men with an unfortunate cholesterol profile have a significant additional risk of myocardial infarction than what previously has been thought," researchers wrote.

"Thus, these men should be treated more aggressively than what often is the case today, so that more infarctions can be prevented and lives can be saved," they concluded.

The findings are published in the journal Epidemiology.

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