Half of Those who need them are not Taking Cholesterol-lowering Medications
December 2, 2015 - 3:57 PM
More than a third of American adults are eligible to take
cholesterol-lowering medications under the current guidelines or were
already taking them – but nearly half of them are not, according to a
report by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers
published in the current issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Blacks and Mexican Americans are less likely than whites to be taking cholesterol-lowering medications.
Data from 2007 through 2014 show a decline in the number of Americans with high blood levels of cholesterol. There also has been a recent increase
in the use of cholesterol-lowering medications. But a high blood level
of LDL cholesterol – also known as “bad” cholesterol - remains a major
risk factor for heart disease and stroke in the United States.
Some people with high LDL cholesterol and who have or are at risk of
heart disease are eligible for cholesterol-lowering medications. They
should also make lifestyle changes such as getting regular exercise,
eating a heart-healthy diet, and losing weight. Yet fewer than half of
people eligible for or who were taking cholesterol-lowering medication
make these changes, the study found.
“Nearly 800,000 people die in the U.S. each year from cardiovascular
diseases – that’s one in every three deaths – and high cholesterol
continues to be a major risk factor,” said Dr. Carla Mercado, a
scientist in CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention.
“This study reveals opportunities to reduce existing disparities through
targeted patient education and cholesterol management programs.”
Getting 65 percent of Americans to manage their high levels of LDL
cholesterol by 2017 is one of the major targets of the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services’ Million Hearts initiative to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes.
78.1 million Americans were already taking or are eligible for cholesterol-lowering medication
The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association
recommend cholesterol-lowering medication for four groups of adults:
People with heart disease, a prior heart attack or some types of stroke, or angina.
People with LDL cholesterol levels of 190 mg/dL or more.
People ages 40 to 75 with diabetes and LDL cholesterol levels of 70-189 mg/dL.
CDC researchers examined data from the 2005-2012 National Health and
Nutrition Examination Surveys. Overall, 36.7 percent of U.S. adults --
78.1 million people age 21 or older -- were eligible for
cholesterol-lowering medication or already taking it. Within this group,
55.5 percent were currently taking cholesterol-lowering medication and
46.6 percent reported making lifestyle changes; 37.1 percent reported
making lifestyle modifications and taking medication, and 35.5 percent reported doing neither.
Gender, race, and ethnicity made a difference. Of:
40.8 percent of men eligible for or already on medication, 52.9 percent were taking medications.
32.9 percent of women eligible for or already on medication, 58.6 percent were taking medications.
24.2 percent of Mexican-Americans eligible for or already on medication, 47.1 percent were taking medications.
39.5 percent of blacks eligible for or already on medication, 46 percent were taking medications.
38.4 percent of whites eligible for or already on medication, 58 percent were taking medications.
Blacks who did not have a routine place for health care had the
lowest rate (5.7 percent) of taking recommended cholesterol-lowering
medication. People who said they already had adopted a heart-healthy
lifestyle (about 80 percent) were the group most likely to be taking
While the study included people taking all forms of
cholesterol-lowering medication, nearly 90 percent of those receiving
medication were taking a statin drug.
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