Objective: To estimate mortality attributable to higher-than-optimal blood cholesterol in New Zealand in 1997, and the mortality burden that could be potentially avoided in 2011 if modest reductions in mean population blood cholesterol concentrations were achieved.
Design: Comparative risk assessment methodology was used to estimate the attributable and avoidable mortality due to higher-than-optimal total blood cholesterol (>3.8 mmol/L). Disease outcomes assessed were deaths from ischaemic heart disease (IHD) and ischaemic stroke.
Results: Overall, higher-than-optimal blood cholesterol contributed to 4,721 deaths in New Zealand in 1997 (17% of all deaths). This included 4,096 IHD deaths (64%) and 625 ischaemic stroke deaths (38%). Modest reductions in mean population blood cholesterol concentrations (e. g. 0.1 mmol/L) could potentially prevent 300 deaths (261 IHD and 39 ischaemic stroke) each year from 2011.
Conclusions: Higher-than-optimal blood cholesterol concentrations are a leading cause of mortality in New Zealand. Modest reductions in blood cholesterol levels could have a major impact on population health within a decade.