A snapshot of lipid levels in the Republic of Ireland in 2017
Received: 13 November 2017 /Accepted: 16 April 2018
Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2018
Background Abnormalities in blood lipid levels are causally linked with cardiovascular disease and pancreatitis. Data is limited
regarding lipid abnormalities in Ireland.
Aims As part of a cholesterol awareness campaign, we performed a pilot study of current lipid levels to preliminarily assess the
extent and pattern of lipid abnormalities in Ireland.
Methods Non-fasting, full lipid profiles and glucose measurements were performed in 259 people (32 on lipid-lowering med-
ication and 225 untreated) using a validated Cholestech LDX machine. Untreated participants included 95 men and 130 women,
aged 51 ± 16 years.
Results The mean ± SD, total, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) and median(IQR) non-
HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels in untreated individuals were 5.0 ± 1.1, 2.8 ± 1.0, 1.5 ± 0.5 and 3.4 (2.8–4.3), 1.6
(1.0–2.3) mmol/l respectively. Glucose was 5.3 (4.8–5.8) mmol/l. Glucose > 7.8 mmol/l occurred in 10 individuals (4%).
Using defined criteria for non-fasting lipid levels, 60% of participants had some form of lipid abnormality with a frequency of
47% having a total cholesterol > 5, 35% with LDL > 3.0, 26% with HDL < 1.0/1.2, 33% with triglycerides > 2.0 and 32% with
non-HDL cholesterol > 3.9 mmol/l. Three individuals had untreated LDL > 5 mmol/l (i.e. a ratio of 1:75 of those tested) and eight
people had HDLc < 0.7 (1:28) and four had triglyceride above 7.3 mmol/l (1:56).
Conclusions This pilot study reveals significant lipid abnormalities which require further larger more detailed lipid studies to
assess the true burden of lipid abnormalities in Ireland. Cascade screening and genetic testing of relatives of those with severe
lipid abnormalities should be considered.
Lipid genetic disorders
Hypercholesterolaemia, particularly raised low-density lipo-
protein (LDL) cholesterol levels are causally linked with car-
diovascular disease . Raised triglyceride levels have a var-
being associated with cardiovascular disease [2–6] due to the
significant cholesterol content of remnant particles , where-
as very high triglyceride levels are associated with pancreatitis
. Non-HDL cholesterol reflects the risk associated with
remnant particles . Low levels of protective HDL choles-
terol have long been associated with increased risk of CHD
. and increasing interest is now focused on HDL flux as a
measure of reverse cholesterol transport [11, 12]. Most of
these lipid abnormalities have a genetic basis  but they
are also influenced by environmental factors . There is
some public awareness about total cholesterol levels but very
little about lipid patterns that carry different risks.
There has been a steady decline in cardiovascular mortality
in Ireland from 1985 to 2006, with 24% being attributed to
cholesterol reduction . Currently, cardiovascular disease
accounts for 32% of all deaths in Ireland . Average cho-
lesterol levels have fallen from 6.0 mmol/l in the 1980s to
5.1 mmol/l in an older Irish population . This trend ex-
ceeds that of other European countries where the average re-
duction was 0.2 mmol/l . Nonetheless, it is not known
which lipoprotein abnormalities exist and what pattern change
accounts for the reduced CHD risk. Evaluating the extent and
* Vincent Maher
Advanced Lipid Management and Research Centre, Tallaght
Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
Department of Cardiology, Tallaght Hospital, D24, Dublin, Ireland
Irish Journal of Medical Science (1971 -)