New Study Reveals High Rates of Unawareness and Untreated High Cholesterol in the US
In a recent study published in JAMA Cardiology, researchers discovered that more than 40% of adults in the United States are unaware and untreated for high cholesterol. This alarming information was uncovered after analyzing data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, spanning over two decades from 1999 to 2020.
The study focused on adults aged 20 and older with cholesterol levels above 160 mg/dL. A cholesterol level between 150 and 199 mg/dL is considered borderline high, while anything above 200 mg/dL is classified as high. Shockingly, adults were classified as unaware if they had never been informed of their high cholesterol levels. Furthermore, they were classified as untreated if they had not been prescribed cholesterol-lowering medications.
The consequences of not treating high cholesterol are severe and can lead to the accumulation of plaque in blood vessels, significantly increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The study discovered that while the percentage of people unaware and untreated for high cholesterol in 2020 was lower compared to 1999, the numbers were still alarmingly high.
Certain demographic groups were found to be at a higher risk of being unaware and untreated. Younger adults, men, those without insurance, and Hispanic populations were particularly affected. Additionally, lower education levels and lower socioeconomic groups also exhibited higher rates of untreated elevated cholesterol.
Although approximately two-thirds of adults in the US reported having had their cholesterol levels checked within the last five years, this is not enough to combat the issue. Experts recommend that most healthy adults should have their cholesterol levels checked every four to six years, with certain individuals requiring more frequent checks.
Several factors contribute to the lack of awareness and treatment for high cholesterol. Difficulties accessing primary care, low rates of screening, lack of consensus on screening recommendations, and hesitance to treat asymptomatic individuals all play a role in the widespread problem.
As the rates of heart disease and stroke continue to rise in the US, it is crucial for individuals to be proactive in addressing their cholesterol levels. By raising awareness about the importance of regular screenings and early treatment, we can significantly reduce the risks associated with high cholesterol and ultimately lead healthier lives.