According to a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health.
A 1970s study found that high levels of HDL cholesterol concentration were associated with a low risk of coronary heart disease, a link that has since been widely accepted and used in heart disease risk assessments. However, only white Americans were included in this study.
Now, research published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that low levels of HDL cholesterol were associated with a higher risk of heart attack in white adults, but the same was not true among adults. black adults. Additionally, higher levels of HDL cholesterol did not reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease for either group.
“It is well accepted that low HDL cholesterol levels are detrimental, regardless of race. Our research tested these hypotheses,” said Nathalie Pamir, lead study author and associate professor of medicine at the Knight Cardiovascular Institute at Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, in a press release. “It could mean that in the future our doctors won’t praise us for having higher HDL cholesterol levels.”
The researchers used data from thousands of people who were enrolled in the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) cohort. Participants were at least 45 years old when they entered the program between 2003 and 2007, and their health was analyzed over an average of 10 years.
The researchers found that high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides “modestly” predicted the risk of heart disease in black and white adults.
But they suggest more work is needed to understand what drives racial differences in the link between HDL and heart disease risk.
And meanwhile, current clinical assessments of heart disease risk “may misclassify risk in black adults, potentially hampering optimal cardiovascular disease prevention and management programs for this group,” they wrote.
CNN medical correspondent Dr. Tara Narula, associate director of the Lenox Hill Women’s Heart Program, said the study “highlights the very important need for more race- and ethnic-specific research and that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.. Additionally, this research emphasizes the continued need to educate that high HDL levels are not a pass and that the focus should be on the control of elevated LDL levels and other known markers of increased cardiovascular risk.”