About 40% of American adults — 94.6 million people — have total cholesterol levels above 200 mg/dL, and more than a quarter of them register above 240 mg/dL, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). But because a large portion of them either don’t know how to manage their cholesterol, or don’t have the confidence to do so, they remain at high risk for cardiovascular disease.
About 2.6 million deaths annually in the U.S. are due to heart disease and stroke, with high cholesterol a known risk factor. But an AHA survey of 800 people who already had a risk factor (high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes) or an actual cardiovascular event (heart attack or stroke) found a high proportion were not taking positive steps toward reducing their risks.
“We found even among those people at the highest risk for heart disease and stroke, overall knowledge was lacking,” says Mary Ann Bauman, M.D., a member of the AHA’s cholesterol advisory group. “There was a major disconnect between perceptions about cholesterol and the significance of its health impact.” Key findings of the survey include:
- Only 29% of respondents realized a prior heart attack or stroke puts them at high risk for subsequent events.
- Almost half (47%) with high risk factors had not had a cholesterol level check in the past year.
- Patients with high cholesterol felt uninformed about what their target weight should be, about the differences between LDL and HDL cholesterol types, and what their goals should be to manage their cholesterol.
“These survey results show an alarming lack of communication between health care providers and those most at risk for cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Bauman. — By Russ Klettke