High Cholesterol Levels Affect More Than Just the Heart

June 2, 2014

New research shows that high cholesterol levels in both men and women can impact the time it takes to achieve pregnancy.

Men and women with high cholesterol levels can slow the time it takes to achieve pregnancy, researchers at the National Institutes of Health, the University at Buffalo, and Emory University found.

The population-based cohort study also found that when the woman had high cholesterol levels, but the man did not, the time to pregnancy was slowed. 

Pertinent Points

- Couples with high cholesterol levels may take longer to conceive a child.

- If just the woman has high cholesterol, the time to pregnancy is also slowed.

- Couples seeking to conceive should first consider bringing their cholesterol levels to an acceptable range..

"We've long known that high cholesterol levels increase the risk for heart disease," said the study's first author, Enrique Schisterman, PhD, chief of the Epidemiology Branch at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, in a news release. "In addition to safeguarding their health, our results suggest that couples wishing to achieve pregnancy could improve their chances by first ensuring that their cholesterol levels are in an acceptable range."

The researchers looked at 501 couples trying to conceive from 16 counties in Michigan and Texas between 2005 and 2009. After discontinuing contraception, the couples were followed for 12 months or until a pregnancy was detected, whichever came first. None of the couples were treated for infertility.

During the study, 347 couples became pregnant, with 54 unable to conceive. The rest of the couples withdrew, including couples whose plans to have a child changed.

The findings were published online last month in the Endocrine Society's The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

The authors also reported that sensitivity analyses suggest the association between high cholesterol levels and pregnancy is unlikely explained by potential unmeasured confounding issues, such as diet.

"From our data, it would appear that high cholesterol levels not only increase the risk for cardiovascular disease but also reduce couples' chances of pregnancy," Schisterman said.