Even though most (75%) of the heart attack and stroke survivors in a recent poll reported having high cholesterol, fewer than one-half (49%) recognized the need to lower it.
That’s according to a recent survey from the American Heart Association (AHA) conducted by The Harris Poll. It found that 70% of heart attack and stroke survivors are unaware that low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is commonly referred to as “bad cholesterol.”
“There’s a pervasive lack of public awareness and understanding around bad cholesterol and its impact on your cardiovascular health. As bad cholesterol usually has no symptoms, we often find that many patients are walking around without knowing they’re at risk or how to mitigate it,” stated Joseph C. Wu, MD, PhD, AHA volunteer president. Dr. Wu is the director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute and Simon H. Stertzer, MD, professor of medicine and radiology at Stanford School of Medicine.
Among the medications available for treating high cholesterol are statins, PCSK9-targeting agents, ezetimibe, bile acid sequestrants, and adenine triphosphate-citrate lyase inhibitors. Nearly all respondents to the poll (98%) said they were willing to take a blood test if recommended by their healthcare professional, according to the industry-funded survey.
Even respondents who said they had heard of LDL cholesterol were fairly unlikely (47%) to know their own numbers. LDL cholesterol is implicated in the buildup of fatty deposits within arteries, leading to atherosclerosis. This narrowing of arteries significantly escalates the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral artery disease.
“At the American Heart Association, we recommend that all adults 20 or older should have their cholesterol checked every 4 to 6 years as long as their risk remains low. After age 40, your healthcare professional will also want to use an equation to calculate your 10-year risk of having a heart attack or stroke. People who have had a prior heart attack or stroke may need their cholesterol checked more often,” explained Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, MD, SCM, past AHA volunteer president and chair of the department of preventive medicine, the Eileen M. Foell Professor of Heart Research and professor of preventive medicine, medicine and pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “This is very much a case where knowledge is power. The more you know, the more you can do to decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke in the future.”
A majority of those answering the survey said they believed high cholesterol poses a moderate-to-high increased risk for heart attack and stroke. “However, there’s still progress to be made,” Dr. Lloyd-Jones said, noting that “this statistic underlines that a considerable portion of survivors require further understanding, particularly regarding the specific risk associated with LDL cholesterol. It’s essential for heart attack and stroke survivors to grasp the profound impact of high LDL cholesterol, often referred to as the ‘bad’ cholesterol, on their cardiovascular health.”
The research was conducted online in the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of the AHA among 3,008 U.S. adults, with 503 U.S. adults who had experienced a stroke and/or heart attack. The survey was conducted from May 1, 2023, to May 16, 2023.
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