Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Does plasma cholesterol concentration predict mortality from coronary heart disease in elderly people? 18 year follow up in Whitehall study.

British Medical Journal 1991; 303 doi: (Published 13 July 1991) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1991;303:89
  1. M J Shipley,
  2. S J Pocock,
  3. M G Marmot
  1. Department of Epidemiology and Population Sciences, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.


    OBJECTIVE--To explore the extent to which the relation between plasma cholesterol concentration and risk of death from coronary heart disease in men persists into old age. DESIGN--18 year follow up of male Whitehall civil servants. Plasma cholesterol concentrations and other risk factors were determined at first examination in 1967-9 when they were aged 40-69. Death of men up to 31 January 1987 was recorded. SUBJECTS--18,296 male civil servants, 4155 of whom died during follow up. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Cause and age of death. Cholesterol concentration in 1967-9 and number of years elapsed between testing and death. RESULTS--1676 men died of coronary heart disease. The mean cholesterol concentration in these men was 0.32 mmol/l higher than that in all other men (95% confidence interval 0.26 to 0.37 mmol/l). This difference in cholesterol concentrations fell 0.15 mmol/l with every 10 years' increase in age at screening. The risk of raised cholesterol concentration fell with age at death. Compared with other men cholesterol concentration in those who died of coronary heart disease was 0.44 mmol/l higher in those who died aged less than 60 and 0.26 mmol/l higher in those aged 60-79 (p = 0.03). For a given age at death the longer the gap between cholesterol measurement and death the more predictive the cholesterol concentration, both for coronary heart disease and all cause mortality (trend test p = 0.06 and 0.03 respectively). CONCLUSION--Reducing plasma cholesterol concentrations in middle age may influence the risk of death from coronary heart disease in old age.