Sex-dependent associations of plasma high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and mortality risk in healthy older men and women: two prospective cohort studies

Sultana Monira Hussain, Andrew M. Tonkin, Gerald F. Watts, Paul Lacaze, Chenglong Yu, Lawrence J. Beilin, Zhen Zhou, Anne B. Newman, Johannes T. Neumann, Cammie Tran, John J. McNeil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The relationship between high plasma high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and cause and mortality are not well established in healthy older people. This study examined the associations between HDL-C levels and mortality in initially healthy older men and women. This analysis included participants from the Aspirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE; n=18,668) trial and a matched cohort from the UK Biobank (UKB; n=62,849 ≥65 years). Cox regression was used to examine hazard ratios between HDL-C categories <1.03 mmol/L, 1.03–1.55 mmol/L (referent category), 1.55–2.07 mmol/L, and >2.07 mmol/L and all-cause, cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and “non-cancer non-CVD” mortality. Genetic contributions were assessed using a polygenic score for HDL-C. Among ASPREE participants (aged 75±5 years), 1836 deaths occurred over a mean follow-up of 6.3±1.8 years. In men, the highest category of HDL-C levels was associated with increased risk of all-cause (HR 1.60, 95% CI 1.26–2.03), cancer (HR 1.37, 95% CI 0.96–2.00), and “non-cancer non-CVD” mortality (HR 2.35, 95% CI 1.41–3.42) but not CVD mortality (HR 1.08, 95% CI 0.60–1.94). The associations were replicated among UKB participants (aged 66.9±1.5 years), including 8739 deaths over a mean follow-up of 12.7±0.8 years. There was a non-linear association between HDL-C levels and all-cause and cause-specific mortality. The association between HDL-C levels and mortality was unrelated to variations in the HDL-C polygenic score. No significant association was found between HDL-C levels and mortality in women. Higher HDL-C levels are associated with increased risk from cancer and “non-cancer non-CVD” mortality in healthy older men but no such relationship was observed in women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1461-1475
Number of pages15
Issue number2
Early online date23 Aug 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Aug 2023

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