Some Improvement Seen in U.S. Cholesterol Levels
However, total cholesterol remains too high and screening rates too low, experts say
By Steven Reinberg
THURSDAY, Oct. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Americans' levels of "good" cholesterol are improving, but total cholesterol levels haven't changed one way or the other in the past few years, U.S. health officials reported Thursday.
Meanwhile, the nation's screening rates for cholesterol have stalled, according to the new analysis from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cholesterol levels include several components. With total cholesterol, low levels are healthier. In contrast, for high-density lipoprotein (HDL) -- the "good" cholesterol -- low levels are a risk factor for heart disease, while high levels are considered protective.
The CDC reported that compared to 2009-2010, fewer Americans aged 20 and older had low levels of good cholesterol in 2011-2012.
The percentage dropped by 20 percent -- to 17 percent of adults having low levels of good cholesterol.
According to lead report author Margaret Carroll, a CDC statistician, "the Healthy People 2020 goals for high total cholesterol of no more than 13.5 percent has been met for all groups except women."
But the goal of having at least 82.5 percent of Americans screened for cholesterol is lagging, she added.
The new analysis revealed that the rate of screening for cholesterol -- about 70 percent -- hasn't changed.
The lack of progress made in screening for total cholesterol "is of substantial concern," said Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"Earlier reports from the CDC have demonstrated declining trends in the percentage of U.S. adults with high total cholesterol in the past decade," noted Fonarow, who is also a spokesman for the American Heart Association (AHA).
However, "Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in men and women in the United States," he pointed out.
The new report found that proportions of adults with high total cholesterol and low good cholesterol varied by sex, race and ethnic group.
More women (about 14 percent) than men (11 percent) had high total cholesterol, and more women than men (72 percent versus 67 percent, respectively) had been screened for cholesterol, the researchers found.