Young Women in Dark About Cholesterol
Barely One-Fifth of Women Younger Than 45 Know Their Cholesterol Numbers
Sept. 20, 2007 -- Few women younger than 45 are savvy about cholesterol, new research shows.
That lack of knowledge could be dangerous, since cholesterol buildup inside artery walls makes heart disease and stroke more likely.
Heart disease is the leading killer of U.S. women. Stroke ranks third (cancer holds second place).
GfK Custom Research North America conducted the survey this summer for the nonprofit Society for Women's Health Research, which encourages women to get their cholesterol checked once every five years starting at age 20 (or more frequently, if needed).
"You can't wait until midlife or later to monitor, and manage when needed, your cholesterol level, which is a major risk factor for heart disease in both women and men," says Phyllis Greenberger, president and CEO of the Society for Women's Health Research, in a news release.
Younger Women Lacking Cholesterol Knowledge
The survey included 141 women aged 18-44, 112 women aged 45-54, and 271 women aged 55 and older.
In reporting the survey's results, the society focused on the cholesterol knowledge of the youngest and oldest age group.
The older women expressed more knowledge about cholesterol, but women of all ages had room for improvement.
Nearly three-quarters of women aged 18-44 didn't know their total cholesterol level, LDL ("bad") cholesterol level, HDL ("good" cholesterol level), or triglyceride level, compared with almost half of women aged 55 and older and 35% of all adult women surveyed.
Two-thirds of the women aged 18-44 incorrectly guessed or didn't know that HDL cholesterol is the "good" cholesterol, compared to 58% of women aged 55 and older and more than 61% of all adult women surveyed.
Younger women were also more likely than older women to indicate that they were "very" or "somewhat" surprised to learn that high cholesterol has no symptoms.
"The only large gaps we saw were between the younger women and the older women," society spokeswoman Karen Young tells WebMD via email.
Young says the society focused on those age groups to emphasize to younger women that screening should start at age 20, not midlife, and that older women need to know that screening is covered by Medicare.
The survey has a 3% margin of error.