40% of Adults Unaware and Untreated for High Cholesterol


New research suggests that while progress is being made in the fight against high cholesterol in the United States, substantial knowledge gaps persist, especially among underserved communities.

High cholesterol remains a significant contributor to cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the country, and recent studies indicate that adults are making improvements in managing their cholesterol levels.

Public health campaigns appear to be effective in increasing awareness and encouraging individuals to seek treatment for high cholesterol. However, certain demographic groups, including Hispanic, Black, undereducated, and low-income individuals, continue to lag behind in terms of awareness and treatment.

The research, published in a letter in JAMA Cardiology on November 1, aimed to explore the relationship between high cholesterol, awareness, and treatment. It sought to determine how many people with high cholesterol are aware of their condition and whether they seek treatment, given that high cholesterol is often a silent risk factor for more serious cardiovascular issues, with no apparent symptoms.

The study analyzed nearly 20 years of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), involving 23,667 participants aged 20 and older. Within this group, approximately 8% had clinically “high” LDL cholesterol (160-189 mg/dl), and about 3% had “very high” LDL cholesterol (190 mg/dl or greater). Participants were categorized as “unaware” if they had never had their LDL cholesterol checked or were never informed of their high cholesterol.


Those who were never prescribed cholesterol-lowering medication, such as statins, were defined as “untreated.”

The research revealed a decline in the percentage of people with high or very high cholesterol who were both unaware and untreated. However, these numbers remain unacceptably high.

On the positive side, the study noted a decrease in the prevalence of clinically high and very high cholesterol over the 20-year period, indicating a positive trend. The prevalence of high cholesterol dropped from 12.4% to 6.1%, while very high cholesterol decreased from 3.8% to 2.1%. Despite these improvements, the numbers remain concerning.

The research also highlighted significant disparities in cholesterol awareness and management among different ethnicities and individuals with low socioeconomic status. Black and Hispanic individuals were more likely to have higher LDL cholesterol levels than their white counterparts.

Low educational attainment, lack of health insurance, and low income were also associated with high cholesterol.

In conclusion, the study findings indicate progress in managing high cholesterol, but there is still much work to be done. The gap in knowledge and treatment of elevated LDL cholesterol remains, with particular disparities among different population groups.

Continued efforts are needed to ensure that individuals are informed about the risks associated with high cholesterol and receive appropriate treatment. Socioeconomic factors and ethnicity play a significant role in cardiovascular health, and addressing these disparities is crucial in the fight against cardiovascular disease.

Overall, the study emphasizes the importance of routine cholesterol checks and early intervention to manage high cholesterol effectively and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Ammara Ahmed

Ammara Ahmed

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