Background. High density lipoprotein (HDL) may be an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease in older people. HDL is heterogeneous with several subfractions. This article describes the distribution and correlates of HDL2 cholesterol (C) and EDL3-C in older people. Methods. HDL subfraction cholesterols were measured in 1,127 females and 825 males ≥ 65 years old who participated in the Cardiovascular Health Study. Distributions of HDL subfraction cholesterols and bivariate and multivariate relationships were determined in cross-sectional analyses. Results. Mean (± SD) concentrations of HDL subfractions were: HDL-C (M .98 ± .25, 1.2 ± .29 mmol/l). HDL2-C (M .09 ± .08, F .13 ± .09 mmol/l). HDL2-C, but not HDL3-C, was slightly higher with age. Using multivariate analysis both HDL2-C and HDL3-C (in females) were inversely correlated with triglyceride, body weight, and fasting insulin; HDL3-C was inversely correlated with central fat distribution in women. Both HDL2-C and HDL3-C were lower in participants with prevalent cardiovascular disease. However, only HDL3-C was significantly inversely related to carotid stenosis, as measured by ultrasound. Conclusions. The slight increase in HDL-C with age appears to be due to an increase in the HDL2-C subfraction. HDL-C subfractions are independently related to triglyceride levels, body weight, and insulin concentrations in older people, all potentially modifiable risk factors. Both HDL2-C and HDL3-C are lower in older people with prevalent cardiovascular disease, although only HDL3-C was correlated with carotid atherosclerosis. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that HDL subfractions are important risk factors for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease in the elderly.
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