Researchers Tie Cholesterol Levels in Women to Menstrual Cycle Phase

NIH Findings May Have Implications for Testing

August 30, 2010 05:20 pm News Staff

Physicians testing a woman's cholesterol levels may need to take into account the phase of her menstrual cycle, according to a study( published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

In a study of more than 250 women ages 18-44 years, researchers from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development -- which is part of the NIH -- found that HDL levels among the women studied rose in concert with estrogen levels, peaking at the time of ovulation.

Conversely, total cholesterol, LDL and triglyceride levels started to decline a few days after ovulation began and reached their lowest levels just before menstruation began.

The total cholesterol levels of the study's participants varied by nearly 20 percent during the course of their cycles.

Study co-author Erique Schisterman, Ph.D., said in a news release( that when preliminary test results indicate high cholesterol, physicians often order a follow-up test for confirmation. Schisterman suggested that physicians could instead take one test at the end of a woman's cycle when cholesterol levels are low.

The researchers, however, acknowledged that further study could help clarify the optimal time for physicians to test a women's cholesterol levels.