Cholesterol a Mystery to Most
Poll: We Think We Know Our Cholesterol -- but We Don't
Nov. 6, 2007 -- Nearly all Americans claim to know how to avoid heart
attacks, but most of us don't know our cholesterol or blood-fat numbers, a Harris poll
The poll was commissioned by Merck & Co. Inc., which makes one of the
cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. The telephone survey of 1,005 U.S. adults
took place in September 2007.
Pollsters asked people whether they thought they were fairly informed about
how to avoid a heart attack. Nearly everyone -- 95% -- said they
- 77% did not know the upper limit of a healthy cholesterol level.
- A third said they had "no idea" what the terms "LDL" or
- Half said they knew exactly what "total cholesterol" means.
- Fewer than half knew their LDL and HDL numbers.
- Only 28% knew their triglyceride numbers.
Of course, you as a WebMD reader already know these things. But just in case
you're emailing this story to your thinks-he-knows-but-doesn't-know
brother-in-law, here are the facts:
- You have two basic kinds of cholesterol: "bad" low-density
lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL)
cholesterol. There's also very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), which is also
- Triglycerides are lipids detected in the blood --
think of them as blood fats. High triglyceride levels are bad.
- Total cholesterol is a measure of
all the cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood. It's measured in
milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). It's desirable to have a total cholesterol
level under 200; at 240 and over, you are at high risk of heart disease.
- Your LDL level should be less than 100, but a level of 100-129 ranges from
near optimal to above optimal. LDL levels of 130-159 are borderline high, and
those at 160 or above are too high.
- The higher your HDL level, the better. HDL of less than 40 for men and less
than 50 for women puts you at higher risk of heart disease.
- Triglyceride levels of less than 150 are normal. Levels of 200 or higher
are too high.
Merck reported the poll results at sponsored events held in conjunction with
the American Heart Association's Annual Scientific Session in Orlando, Fla.