How High Is Your Cholesterol Level?
CDC: 1/3 of Adults Do Not Check Cholesterol Regularly
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 10, 2005 -- Not enough adults are getting a simple test that could save their lives, the CDC says.
Only about two-thirds of the adult population routinely have their cholesterol level checked, according to a report in the CDC's Feb. 11 edition of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Heart disease and stroke are major causes of death in the U.S. Though there are many causes that contributed to these conditions, high cholesterol is one factor that can be treated.
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in the body and in certain foods such as meat, oils, and eggs. High cholesterol has been linked to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
Routine screening can detect abnormally high levels of cholesterol, and people aged 20 and older should have their cholesterol checked at least every five years, according to the National Cholesterol Education Program.
Why Get Tested?
High cholesterol is defined as a total cholesterol level of 240 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or higher. Total cholesterol of less than 200 mg/dL is considered desirable.
Treatment includes eating a healthy, low-fat diet, exercising, and losing extra weight. Some people may also need cholesterol-lowering drugs.
But if people aren't tested, the problem goes unnoticed. Since high cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, ignorance is definitely not bliss.
Long Way to Go
By the year 2010, the federal government wants 80% of U.S. adults to meet cholesterol-screening guidelines. Lowering the percentage of adults with high total cholesterol to 17% and eliminating cholesterol gaps among racial and ethnic groups are also national goals for 2010.
America must make a lot of progress to meet those standards. At the CDC's last check, only about 63% of adults had had their cholesterol checked in the preceding five years.
That was as of 1999-2000, says the CDC. The numbers are based on a national survey of more than 8,100 adults aged 20 or older.
Who Gets Screened and Who Doesn't
Participants were asked if they had had their cholesterol checked within the past five years and if they had ever been told by a health professional that they had high cholesterol. They also reported whether they were taking cholesterol-lowering medications.
Older people were more likely than young adults to have had their cholesterol checked within the last five years. So were women. Compared with men, women were 1.2 times as likely to have had their cholesterol checked.
Blacks were 30% less likely than whites to have had their cholesterol measured in the previous five years. Even fewer Mexican-Americans had been screened. They were 57% less likely than whites to have had their cholesterol checked.