Medically Reviewed by Gavin M. Leask, MD
Better. But not good enough.
Those five words capture the plight of our fight against cholesterol and its heart-related problems.
“The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows a decline in adults with bad cholesterol levels during the period from 2007-2014, dropping from 14% to 11%,” says McLeod Cardiologist Gavin Leask, MD. “This represents very good news in the fight against cardiovascular disease, the number one of cause of death in this country. However, some researcher feel that the improvement is due largely to an increase in the number of people taking statins, cholesterol control drugs, not changes to a healthier lifestyle.”
Nearly half of men in the U.S., ages 65-74 are taking statins, sold as Zocor, Lipitor and Crestor. For men and women aged 45 and above, nearly 1 in 4 are taking a statin medication.
Breaking down the research reveals that most people have not moved to diets healthy enough to lower their cholesterol without the medication. People in what might be called the “young mature adult” category, ages 40-59, tend to avoid taking statins until they suffer a heart attack or stroke.
IT’S OUR CHILDREN, AS WELL
Some 21% of children and adolescents register an abnormal cholesterol level – either too high total cholesterol, too low HDL (good) cholesterol or too high LDL (bad) cholesterol. Nearly 200,000 children in the country already suffer abnormal cholesterol levels so bad that they require statins. Research currently underway is looking at whether these statins work as well with children as in adults.
This cholesterol issue creates a serious problem for our children, because cardiovascular disease risk factors tend to follow a youngster into adulthood, unless they are identified and controlled.
ON THE ONE HAND, ON THE OTHER…
Death rates from heart disease fell 38% between 2003 and 2013. On the other hand, risk factors for heart disease remain high — especially diet, lack of exercise and smoking. The American Hospital Association has set a goal of reducing death by cardiovascular disease and stroke 20% by the year 2020. So, there’s work to be done by all of us.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
Start by finding out where your cholesterol levels stand. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screen for cholesterol and treated, if necessary, by managing obesity.
If cholesterol levels put you at risk, see a cardiologist.
Find a Cardiologist near you.
Sources include: McLeod Health, US Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Helath Statistics, Harvard Health Publications