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Cholesterol and Women

We hear a lot about cholesterol tests and numbers for good reason - high cholesterol is  a major risk factor for heart disease, the number one killer of men and women.  But are cholesterol concerns the same for men and women?

We routinely advise women (and men) to keep their total cholesterol under 200.  Some doctors are now questioning whether this number should be even lower for women.

We know that estrogen has a protective effect on cholesterol - causing HDL, the "good cholesterol" to stay high and keeping LDL, the "bad cholesterol", in check. 

Once a woman goes through menopause, however, she loses this benefit unless she takes estrogen replacement.  The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute estimates that more than half of women over age 55 need to lower their cholesterol.  This can often be accomplished with aggressive dietary changes, exercise, or medication - often, a combination of all three interventions is necessary.   Interestingly, recent studies have shown that women actually reap greater rewards from treatment than men, sometimes lowering their risk of a heart attack by twice as much.  Studies also show, however, that many women who are being treated with medicine are treated with insufficient doses to achieve the desired effect.

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Created: 2/1/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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