Patients with HDL over 80 mg/dL had a significantly increased incidence of heart disease.

Elevated blood levels of HDL may not protect women with type 1 diabetes from heart disease, according to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health study. Data is being presented at the 70th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association.

The Pittsburgh Epidemiology of Diabetes Complications Study enrolled 658 men and women in a long-term prospective examination of childhood onset type 1 diabetes that began in 1986. Participants were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes between 1950 and 1980.

The investigators report that the incidence of heart disease increased in both men and women with diabetes who had HDL levels below 47.5 mg/dL. For men, as levels of HDL increased, their incidence of heart disease decreased. The same was found for women, except in those with HDL over 80 mg/dL whose incidence of heart disease increased substantially. The scientists were unable to draw a meaningful comparison to male participants since only a few had HDL over 80 mg/dL.

“Although high levels of HDL are typically associated with decreased risk for cardiovascular disease, this may not be the case for women who have type 1 diabetes and HDL in the upper ranges,” says Tina Costacou, Ph.D., lead author of the study and assistant professor of epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. “We need to examine this relationship further, but our study suggests that too much of a good thing may not always offer protection and may even be harmful for women with type 1 diabetes.”

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