High density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels are inversely associated with the incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD) in middle-aged individuals; in the elderly, the association is less clear. Genetic factors, including variations in the cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) gene, play a role in determining HDL-C levels. Controversy remains about whether CETP deficiency and the resultant rise in HDL-C are antiatherogenic, or whether CETP has the opposite effect due to its role in reverse cholesterol transport. In a seven-year follow-up of 2,340 men aged 71-93 in the Honolulu Heart Program, the age-adjusted CHD incidence rates were significantly lower in men with high versus low HDL-C levels. After adjustment for age, hypertension, smoking, and total cholesterol, the relative risk of CHD for those with HDL-C levels greater than or equal to60 mg/dl, compared with those with HDL-C levels <40 mg/dl, was 0.6. Men with a CETP mutation had the lowest rates of CHD, although this was not statistically significant. These data indicate that HDL-C remains an important risk factor for CHD in the elderly. Whether a CETP mutation offers additional protection against CHD warrants further investigation.
JD Curb, Pacific Hlth Res Inst, Honolulu, HI