HealthDay News – Low and high levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol are linked to increased mortality risk, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The current findings are based on medical records and other data from 631,762 Ontario adults aged 40 years and older. Over 5 years, 17,952 of them died.

The researchers found that men and women with low HDL levels were more likely to die during the study period, vs those with levels between 40 and 60 mg/dL. But they had increased risks of not only cardiovascular disease death, but also death from cancer or other causes. 

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People with low HDL tended to have lower incomes and higher rates of smoking, diabetes, and hypertension. After the researchers accounted for those factors, low HDL was still linked to higher mortality rates. At the other end of the spectrum, people with very high HDL—greater than 90 mg/dL—faced increased risks of dying from non-cardiovascular causes.

“The association of HDL cholesterol levels with conditions that increase the risk of both cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular mortality cast doubt on its role as an independently modifiable risk factor,” the authors wrote. “Future studies should examine specific aspects of HDL cholesterol, such as HDL particle size, subclasses, and function to identify correlates of cardiovascular risk that may be amenable to therapeutic intervention.”


  1. Ko DT, Alter DA, Guo H, et al. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol and cause-specific mortality in individuals without previous cardiovascular conditions. The CANHEART Study. J am Coll Cardiol. 2016;68(19):2073-2083. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2016.08.038.
  2. Nicholls SJ, Psaltis PJ. Will big data shine light at the end of the tunnel for HDL? J Am Coll Cardiol. 2016;68(19):2084-2085. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2016.08.039.