cholesterol art

Most people with high cholesterol are not sure how to manage the potentially deadly condition, according to a survey from the American Heart Association.

Nearly one in three American adults has high levels of LDL cholesterol, according to AHA statistics. It’s a serious health risk, because too much LDL — or “bad” — cholesterol can result in narrowed arteries and cause clots that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

The survey was conducted as part of the AHA’s Check. Change. Control. Cholesterol initiative. Participants included nearly 800 people with a history of heart disease or at least one major risk factor, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes.

“Even in those people at the highest risk for heart disease and stroke, knowledge was lacking and there was a major disconnect between perceptions about cholesterol and the significance of its health impact,” Mary Ann Bauman, M.D., a member of the AHA’s cholesterol advisory group, said in a news release.

High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, killing about 2.6 million people a year. But nearly half of those with a known history or at least one risk factor for heart disease or stroke hadn’t had their cholesterol checked in the past year.

Respondents with high cholesterol said they were not well-informed about their target weight, the difference between LDL and HDL cholesterol, and the goals for cholesterol treatment.

“Research suggests even modestly elevated cholesterol levels can lead to heart disease later in life, but these survey results show an alarming lack of communication between healthcare providers and those most at risk for cardiovascular disease,” Bauman said.

LDL cholesterol is produced naturally by the body, but many people inherit genes that cause them to make too much. Eating foods with saturated or trans fats also ups the amount of LDL cholesterol in the blood.

Bauman said when lifestyle modifications such as diet and exercise aren’t enough to treat high cholesterol, medication may be needed.

“We also need to talk to patients about other risk factors, including genetics and family history, to determine the most effective course of treatment,” she said.

The AHA will host a national cholesterol summit Tuesday in Dallas for cholesterol patients, healthcare providers and others to discuss gaps in cholesterol management goals.