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A new study says women with high cholesterol are half as likely to die from heart disease as men, but a U.S. specialist says the finding ignores the possibility that the disease may just take longer to kill women.

"Women do not have to worry about high cholesterol quite so much as men," said Dr. Christopher Isles, the leading investigator at the Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary in Dumfries, Scotland. His study was published in the March 21 issue of the British medical journal the Lancet.The study found that men with high cholesterol were twice as likely to die of heart disease than women with even higher cholesterol levels.

But Dr. Margo A. Denke, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said women are just as susceptible to risk factors, such as cholesterol and smoking, but they die from heart disease 20 to 30 years after men.

"We don't know why women have this lag period," she said. "What I would argue is that he hasn't studied the women long enough to show whether they will catch up. Wait another 10 years and these things will become apparent."