Objective: To determine whether high blood cholesterol is an important risk factor for mortality from coronary heart disease in elderly men.
Design: Cohort study with a mean follow-up of 10.1 years.
Setting: A health maintenance organization.
Patients: The cohort included 2746 white men 60 to 79 years of age who had no self-reported history of coronary heart disease.
Measurement and Main Results: A total of 260 deaths occurred during 27 842 person-years of follow-up. The relative risk for mortality from coronary heart disease in men 60 to 79 years of age in the highest serum cholesterol quartile was 1.5 (95% CI, 1.2 to 2.0) compared with those in the three lower quartiles combined. The relative risk did not change greatly with age, ranging from 1.4 in men 60 to 64 years of age to 1.7 in men 75 to 79 years of age. However, because mortality from coronary heart disease increased with age, the excess risk for such mortality attributable to elevated serum cholesterol levels increased fivefold over these 20 years, from 2.2 deaths per 1000 person-years to 11.3 deaths per 1000 person-years.
Conclusions: Our results support those of other observational studies in elderly men. If treatment of high blood cholesterol is as effective in reducing cholesterol-related risk for coronary heart disease after 65 years of age as it is in middle-aged men, it might actually produce greater reductions in mortality due to coronary heart disease. A clinical trial is needed to confirm this extrapolation.