While keeping a healthy cholesterol profile is important for everyone, middle-aged men with high cholesterol have a greater risk of first-time heart attack than middle-aged women with the same condition, researchers reported.

The scientists observed Norwegian women (23,525) and men (20,725), all younger than 60 at baseline, for 12 years. They looked at cholesterol scores and noted any incidence of acute myocardial infarction (AMI), or heart attack, among the subjects.

At the end of the study, the researchers drew a strong correlation between dyslipidemia (high cholesterol) and heart attack among men. They did not find a similar correlation among women.

However, “obesity and hypertension [in combination] were equally detrimental for men and women in relation to AMI risk,” according to the authors.

“Current clinical guidelines of dyslipidemia management do not distinguish between men and women in relation to primary prevention of AMI,” they explained. “Our results suggest that in middle age, dyslipidemia is much more detrimental for men than for women, and that preventing dyslipidemia has a greater potential to reduce the occurrence of AMI among men.”

The study appeared in Epidemiology (2013, 24 [5], 637-42).