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
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
The survey has a 3% margin of error.
Here are the cholesterol
facts you need to know, regardless of your sex.
- Cholesterol is a type of lipid (as is fat).
- Cholesterol can come from animal-based foods such as meat or eggs, but not
plant-based foods like vegetables or fruits. It's also made by your body.
- LDL is "bad" cholesterol. HDL is "good" cholesterol.
- A blood test can check your cholesterol level.
- Exercise and a healthy diet may improve your cholesterol levels.
- Medications can help control cholesterol, when necessary.
Here are the optimal cholesterol levels to shoot for:
- Total cholesterol should be below 200 mg/dL, unless HDL is high.
- LDL lower than 100 mg/dL
- HDL 60 mg/dL or higher
Triglycerides are another type of lipid, but they're not the same as
cholesterol. Ideally, triglyceride levels after fasting should be less than 150