Menopausal women routinely showed higher blood levels of LDL cholesterol (the artery-clogging “bad” cholesterol), but they didn’t show spikes in other risk factors for heart attack, stroke and additional cardiovascular problems, according to a University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine study reported by HealthDay News.

Researchers suggested women nearing menopause should have their lipid profiles checked and pay more attention to lifestyle factors linked to cardiovascular risk.

“They should lose weight and keep it off and increase their physical activity,” said lead investigator Karen Matthews, PhD, a professor of psychiatry, epidemiology and psychology. “Smokers should stop smoking.”

In addition, Matthews confirmed that all menopausal women showed an overall increase in their total cholesterol levels because they accumulate more LDL (low-density lipoproteins) and the protein carrier for the substance—called apolipoprotein B.

The study’s findings were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, along with two related studies by Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Those studies examined the effectiveness of different dosages of statins, cholesterol-lowering drugs, on nearly 14,000 patients who had experienced a heart attack or other cardiovascular event.

In the pharmaceutical company studies, investigators discovered that higher statin doses are more effective in the long run than lower doses in preventing more heart attacks, other cardiovascular problems and premature death.

Christopher P. Cannon, MD, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and a researcher on one of the statin studies, said the data provide evidence patients should stay on stronger statins for a longer period of time after their initial cardiovascular event. Doing so prevents more than just a follow-up heart attack shortly after the first event, he said, it helps prevent multiple cardiovascular events in the future.