High Cholesterol Declining in Adults, CDC Says

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The percentage of U.S. adults with high cholesterol levels declined by a more than quarter over the last decade, according to a new government report.

A nationally representative survey conducted in 1999 and 2000 showed that 18.3 percent of adults had high total cholesterol, but that number dropped to 13.4 percent in 2009 and 2010, according to the report from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Those numbers mean the percentage of adults with high total cholesterol declined by 27 percent over the decade, the report said.

High cholesterol levels in 2009 and 2010, were more prevalent among women (14.3 percent) than men (12.2 percent).  

When broken down by age and gender, most groups showed drops in the percentages of people with high cholesterol levels. However, for women ages 49 to 59, those numbers held relatively constant over the study period.

High levels of total cholesterol, and low levels of "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol are major risk factors for coronary heart disease.

The researchers found that 21.3 percent of adults had low levels of HDL cholesterol in 2009 and 2010. The percentage of adults with low HDL cholesterol was higher for men (31.4 percent) than for women (11.9 percent).

The report was based on data gathered on adults ages 20 and older during the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys conducted by the CDC. People participating in the surveys completed questionnaires and underwent physical exams, including blood tests. The researchers defined high total cholesterol as 240 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL), and low HDL cholesterol as being less than 40 mg/dL.

Overall, more than two-thirds of adults were screened for cholesterol in the previous five years, the report said, but there were differences in screening rates across races. For example, cholesterol screening was reported by 70 percent of white men, 61.8 percent of black men and 49.7 percent of Hispanic men. Among women, screening was reported by 71 percent of white women, 69.7 percent of black men and 62.6 percent of Hispanic women.

The researchers noted that the report was limited in that the analysis is based measurements of cholesterol levels in the blood, and did not take into account whether people were taking cholesterol-lower medications.  

Pass it on: The percentage of adults with high cholesterol levels is decreasing.

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Live Science Staff
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