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J Am Geriatr Soc. 2011 Oct;59(10):1779-85. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2011.03593.x. Epub 2011 Sep 21.

Association between serum cholesterol and noncardiovascular mortality in older age.

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Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.



To clarify the association between cholesterol and noncardiovascular mortality and to evaluate how this association varies across age groups.


Prospective population-based cohort study.


Rotterdam, the Netherlands.


Adults aged 55 to 99 (N = 5,750).


Participants were evaluated for total cholesterol and subfractions and followed for mortality for a median of 13.9 years. Total cholesterol and its subfractions were evaluated in relation to noncardiovascular mortality. Cox regression analyses were conducted in the total sample and within age-groups (55-64, 65-74, 75-84, ≥85).


Age- and sex-adjusted analyses showed that each 1-mmol/L increase in total cholesterol was associated with an approximately 12% lower risk of noncardiovascular mortality (hazard ratio (HR) = 0.88, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.84-0.92, P < .001). Age group-specific analyses demonstrated that this association reached significance after the age of 65 and increased in magnitude across each subsequent decade. This was driven largely by non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (non-HDL-C) (HR = 0.89, 95% CI 0.85-0.93, P < .001) and was partly attributable to cancer mortality. Conversely, HDL-C was not significantly associated with noncardiovascular mortality (HR = 0.92, 95% CI 0.79-1.07, P = .26).


Higher total cholesterol was associated with a lower risk of noncardiovascular mortality in older adults. This association varied across the late-life span and was stronger in older age groups. Further research is required to examine the mechanisms underlying this association.

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