100m Americans targeted in cholesterol campaign

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cholesterol, Atherosclerosis

September is National Cholesterol Education Month and comes at a time when nearly 100m Americans over the age of 20 have ‘elevated’ cholesterol levels – or 200mg/dL or higher.

The month-long education campaign that debuted in 1985 is coordinated by the National Institutes of Health Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute which estimates about 65m Americans have ‘high cholesterol’.

The American Heart Association reckons 34 million of these people have levels of 240 mg/dL or higher – a level that puts them at high risk for heart disease.

The alarming figures present a massive burden on the public health system, not to mention private purses, which has prompted the National Institutes of Health Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to carry out its yearly campaign to battle the problem.

Such pressures have simultaneously given rise to a boom in cholesterol-lowering plant stanol and sterol foods and dietary supplementary supplements as well as statin drugs and an interest in the potential of cholesterol-lowering potential of whole foods and high-fibre foods.

High levels of LDL cholesterol (or ‘bad’ cholesterol) are primary factors in coronary heart disease, which accounts for about 600,000 deaths in the US each year.

Backing the program, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said adults over the age of 20 years should have their cholesterol checked at least every five years.

Fat attack

It said one of the most common causes of the high cholesterol was diet (in particular consumption of high levels of saturated fat).

“Saturated fat raises your LDL-cholesterol level more than anything else in the diet,”​ CDC said. “Eating too much saturated fat and cholesterol is the main reason for high levels of cholesterol and a high rate of heart attacks in the US. Reducing the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol you eat is a very important step in reducing your blood cholesterol levels.”

Genetics were another factor with 1 in 500 people inheriting​familial hypercholesterolemia, which can lead to heart disease.

Other factors include weight; physical activity/exercise; age and sex; alcohol consumption and stress.

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