New Study Reveals High Percentage of Unawareness and Untreated High Cholesterol in the US
A recent study published in JAMA Cardiology has shed light on a significant issue affecting adults in the United States – the lack of awareness and treatment of high cholesterol. The study, which analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1999 to 2020, found that over 40% of adults in the US are unaware they have high cholesterol and, as a result, are not receiving the necessary treatment.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the blood and is essential for the body to function properly. However, when cholesterol levels become too high, it can lead to the accumulation of plaque in blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The study identified adults with cholesterol levels above 160 mg/dL as being at risk and in need of treatment.
It was found that levels below 150 mg/dL were considered normal, while levels between 150 and 199 mg/dL were classified as borderline high. Levels above 200 mg/dL were categorized as high. Adults were classified as unaware and untreated if they had not been informed about their high cholesterol levels or prescribed cholesterol-lowering medications.
The study revealed that the percentage of adults who were unaware and untreated for high cholesterol decreased from 49.4% in 1999 to 38.5% in 2020. However, certain groups were found to have higher rates of unawareness and lack of treatment. Younger adults, men, those without insurance, Hispanic populations, individuals with lower education levels, and lower socioeconomic groups were among those with higher rates of being unaware and untreated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that approximately two-thirds of US adults have had their cholesterol levels checked within the last five years. This indicates that cholesterol screening is happening to a certain extent, but the findings from the study suggest that many are still falling through the gaps and are not being diagnosed or treated.
The authors of the study attribute the lack of awareness and treatment to several factors. Difficulties accessing primary care, low rates of screening, lack of consensus on screening recommendations, and hesitance to treat asymptomatic individuals are believed to be contributing to the problem.
Despite a decline in severely elevated cholesterol levels over the past two decades, the prevalence of borderline high and high levels still exists, impacting a significant portion of the population. It is crucial for individuals to be aware of their cholesterol levels and seek necessary treatment to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Overall, this study emphasizes the need for increased awareness and improved access to screening and treatment for high cholesterol. By addressing these issues, individuals can take proactive steps towards managing their cholesterol levels and protecting their long-term health.
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