Cholesterol Screenings On the Rise, Some Segments Lag Behind

by Colin Carmichael

The number of Americans getting a cholesterol screening rose dramatically from 2005 to 2009, although certain segments are lagging behind a bit.

It seems that Hispanics, young adults, and the less-educated aren't as likely to get their lipid profile done according to a new study.

Part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "Healthy People 2010" target included a blood cholesterol test for 80 percent of the population in the five years leading up to 2010. Only nine states reached that goal.

The CDC looked at data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) to monitor any trends in the number of cholesterol tests and progress towards reaching target cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol Screenings on the Rise

The total portion of adults over 18 who said they had a blood cholesterol test between 2005 and 2009 rose from 72.7% in 2005 to 76% in 2009. The number of people self-reporting taking a lipid test varied from a low of 67.7% in Idaho to a high of 84.5% in D.C.

Only two states (South Carolina and Missouri) showed a drop-off from 2005 to 2009, although the decrease was insignificant.

Based on the BRFSS data in 2005, 33.2% self-reported they had been informed of having high cholesterol levels. By 2009, that number rose to 35.0%. In 2009, those percentages ranges from a low of 30.5% in New Mexico to 38.8% in Texas.

Of course, once you've been told you have high cholesterol, your first reaction is to figure out how to lower cholesterol, preferably without using the dangerous prescription drugs.

But here's another thought that should be crossing your mind…

Are We Looking at the Right Cholesterol Numbers?

There's another point to this data that is being completely ignored by the media. And that's the notion of "what is high cholesterol" and are we evaluating this the right way or not?

If all we're doing is looking at the Total Cholesterol number … the number the drug companies want us to focus on to get more patients under their umbrella … then we've got a big problem.

Increasing awareness of the importance of cholesterol screenings is a worthy and noble goal. But getting patients and healthcare professionals to look beyond that Total Cholesterol number (which doesn't tell you diddly about your risk for anything) and look at your overall cholesterol profile is perhaps the next phase in cholesterol education and awareness.

Instead of promoting the idea that acceptable cholesterol levels include anything below 200, let's promote the idea of looking at patients overall cholesterol health.

That would include keeping a close eye on…

  • HDL/LDL ratio: Your risk of death from a cardiovascular event rises significantly at .30 or lower. Your target should be .40 or higher.
  • HDL/Triglycerides: Should be at .5 or higher.
  • HDL: Shoud be at least 40. Preferably 60+.

Unfortunately, many patients are being duped into taking cholesterol drugs they just don't need, solely because their Total Cholesterol is over 200. Don't fall for this tactic to boost pharmaceutical profits. Get educated and know the facts.

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