It’s often emphasized that the more HDL cholesterol – good cholesterol – you have, the healthier you are. But for some people, this may not be the case. A new study has found that postmenopausal women with high HDL cholesterol may actually be at risk of detrimental health conditions.
HDL is responsible for carrying away LDL cholesterol, which is a known risk factor for heart disease. This is because high LDL levels can lead to plaque build-up, causing arteries to narrow and become stiffer.
The latest findings uncovered that among postmenopausal women, high levels of HDL cholesterol didn’t offer protection as it normally would. This is because HDL cholesterol comes in different sizes, shapes, and compositions. The researchers suggest a better test to determine heart disease risk is to examine these variables – a technique known as ion-mobility analysis. This allows doctors to have a better understanding of cholesterol found in the body to determine heart disease risk.
The study looked at nearly 1,400 women aged 45 to 84 whose HDL cholesterol levels were assessed. Cholesterol was assessed through traditional blood testing and through ion-mobility analysis.
Postmenopausal women with higher HDL levels determined by conventional testing were found to have a higher risk of atherosclerosis compared to women with lower HDL levels. On the other hand, postmenopausal women with high HDL concentrations based on ion-mobility analysis had a reduced risk of atherosclerosis.
The difference in ion-mobility analysis was just not the number of particles, but their size too. Smaller HDL particles were associated with a reduced risk of atherosclerosis.
The study suggests that HDL cholesterol may be prone to dysfunction in perimenopausal women as a result of several changes that occur in menopause, like fluctuating estrogen levels and elevation of other lipids in the blood.
The study also suggests that over time, the protective qualities of these particles may be restored.
The findings further suggest that cholesterol as a risk factor for heart disease may be different in different age groups. For postmenopausal women, it needs to be considered a risk factor rather than a protective factor.
Additional research is required to better understand the role which HDL plays in heart disease risk.
- Cholesterol levels: Signs, symptoms, and complications of high and low cholesterol
- High HDL Cholesterol in Postmenopausal Women May Not Lower Cardiovascular Disease Risk: Study