Listen up, men. Scientific research has provided the world with yet another reason why women are the better sex. Of course, the study won’t actually settle the men versus women debate, but the results do prove just how dangerous high cholesterol is for middle-aged men.

The study report was published in the September 2013 edition of Epidemiology. In it, Norwegian researchers presented data related to the occurrence of high cholesterol and first-time heart attacks in middle-aged men and women.

Researchers began the study by collecting nearly 65,000 blood samples from the 1995-1997 Nord-Trøndelag Health Study. Their initial hypothesis suggested that premenopausal female sex hormones may provide protection against high cholesterol and heart attacks, so researchers separated the 20,138 samples that came from participants over the age of 60. After those were removed, they were able to study high-cholesterol samples from 23,525 middle-aged women and 20,725 middle-aged men.

The study followed the middle-aged participants for 12 years. In that time, 157 of the female participants suffered first-time heart attacks compared to 553 of the male participants. Researchers also noted that, in the group of participants over the age of 60, there were no gender-based differences in health outcomes.

What Do These Results Mean?

Currently, medical treatment recommendations regarding high cholesterol are the same for men and women. The researchers in this study stressed that middle-aged men with high cholesterol should be treated “aggressively” so that “lives can be saved.”  

For low-risk individuals, experts recommend having a cholesterol test once every five years after the age of 20. However, as these study results suggest, men with previously high cholesterol levels may want to speak to their doctors about more frequent testing. This is especially true for men with risk factors (family history, tobacco usage, obesity, or sedentary lifestyle).

The results also provide another piece of evidence to support the theory that female hormones, especially estrogen, protect premenopausal women against heart disease and high cholesterol. However, supplementing post-menopausal women with estrogen through hormone replacement therapy is not a cure-all for heart attacks. This type of treatment has been shown to increase the risk of other dangerous conditions such as breast cancer, heart disease, stroke, and blood clots.

Doctors and medical experts continue to recommend diet, exercise and lifestyle changes as the first line of defense for male and female patients with high cholesterol.  As always, if you suspect that you may have high cholesterol then speak with your physician as soon as you can.

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