As a part of a survey for cardiovascular risk factors high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) was determined in 15 942 men and women aged 20-53. Women had on average 0.24 mmol/l higher HDL-C concentration than men. The difference was of the same magnitude at all ages. For both sexes HDL-C increased with age. The increase was partly influenced by other variables affecting the HDL-C concentration. After adjusting for the effect of height, weight, cigarette-smoking, physical activity in leisure time, and ethnic origin the age-related change was more pronounced, 0.13 mmol/l and 0.16 mmol/l difference between the youngest and the oldest age group for men and women respectively. The population comprised three ethnic groups. HDL-C did not differ among the women of different ethnic origin, but among men those of Lappish origin had higher HDL-C concentrations than the other groups. This difference was reduced after adjusting for other variables and was probably due more to external factors influencing the HDL-C concentration than specific ethnic-genetic traits.
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