Associations between Serum Levels of Cholesterol and Survival to Age 90 in Postmenopausal Women


Although elevated lipid levels predict increased risk of coronary heart disease and death in middle‐aged women and men, evidence is mixed if lipid levels measured in later life predict survival to very old ages. We examined lipid levels and survival to age 90 with or without intact mobility in a large cohort of older women.


Prospective cohort.


Laboratory collection at a Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) center and longitudinal follow‐up via mail.


Women aged 68 to 81 years at baseline.


Serum high‐density lipoprotein (HDL) and low‐density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol were collected at baseline. Participant survival status and self‐reported mobility was compared across lipid levels.


HDL and LDL levels were not associated with survival to age 90 after adjustment for cardiovascular risk factors (HDL: quartile (Q) 2: odds ratio [OR] = 1.14 [95% confidence interval [CI] = .94‐1.38]; Q3 OR = 1.08 [95% CI = .88‐1.33]; Q4 OR = 1.09 [95% CI = .88‐1.35]; LDL: Q2 OR = 1.07 [95% CI = .88‐1.31]; Q3 OR = 1.27 [95% CI = 1.04‐1.55]; Q4 OR = 1.07 [95% CI = .88‐1.31]). Similarly, no associations were observed between HDL and LDL levels and survival to age 90 with mobility disability. High HDL was not associated with survival to age 90 with intact mobility after adjustment for other cardiovascular risk factors. Compared with the lowest LDL quartile, the three upper LDL quartiles were associated with greater odds of survival to age 90 with intact mobility (LDL: Q2 OR = 1.31 [95% CI = .99‐1.74]; Q3 OR = 1.43 [95% CI = 1.07‐1.92]; Q4 OR = 1.35 [95% CI = 1.01‐1.80]; P = .05).


Neither higher HDL nor lower LDL levels predicted survival to age 90, but higher LDL predicted healthy survival. These findings suggest the need for reevaluation of healthy LDL levels in older women.


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