Results from a recent nationwide survey showed that most respondents did not know that high cholesterol comes from two sources, even though the respondents reported having high cholesterol.
When asked about the sources of cholesterol, more than three-quarters of respondents (77 percent) stated incorrectly that the food they eat contributes the most to high cholesterol. In fact, the cholesterol in the bloodstream is not just absorbed from the food people eat, but the majority is produced naturally in the body.
Other findings from the survey showed that 45 percent of high cholesterol patients said they were more concerned about cholesterol compared to other personal health issues and 75 percent felt that their cholesterol should be lower.
"Patients with high cholesterol should make an extra effort to be as informed about their cholesterol levels as possible. Knowing about the sources of cholesterol is a key step in this process," says David Cohen, M.D., director of hepatology, Brigham and Women's Hospital. "The fact is that both diet and heredity play a critical role in your cholesterol levels. While diet can contribute significantly to elevated cholesterol, the body's natural chemistry can often produce dangerously high levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol based on heredity alone. When working with a physician to manage your condition, it is important for patients to understand that there are two sources of cholesterol and in many cases both need to be addressed."
The survey results also showed:
Respondents did have a general sense that the lower their cholesterol the better; with 75 percent agreeing that their cholesterol should be lower than it currently is now.
Most respondents (85 percent) said they were aware there are national guidelines for where their overall cholesterol number should be. However, only 27 percent of those people actually knew that the optimal level for LDL cholesterol is less than 100mg/dL.
"The cholesterol awareness gap that is seen in this survey can and should be remedied," says Bonna Kol, executive director of Mended Hearts, a volunteer organization affiliated with the American Heart Association that provides supportive services to heart disease patients and their families nationwide. "High cholesterol is a serious condition, but it can be treated. Following a heart healthy diet, managing weight and staying physically active are essential lifestyle components we've encouraged for years. We've also emphasized the importance of informed patients talking with their doctor to ensure cholesterol goals are met. These findings reinforce that importance. Patients should work with their doctors on developing an approach to lowering cholesterol that is best for them."
The survey was sponsored by Merck/ Schering-Plough Pharmaceuticals in conjunction with Mended Hearts. The two organizations are developing educational materials and local awareness campaigns based on the findings to educate heart patients on the importance of reaching their cholesterol treatment goals.
Cholesterol is a form of fat or "lipid" found in the blood and all cells of the body. It is critically important in helping to form cell membranes, steroid hormones and bile acids. There are two sources of cholesterol: cholesterol comes from the food you eat and is produced naturally in the body. However, over time, excess LDL (or bad) cholesterol in the blood can build up on the inner walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. These deposits form plaque, which can cause the arteries to narrow, making them less efficient at transporting blood. This condition, called atherosclerosis, restricts blood flow, which can result in heart attack.
Merck/ Schering-Plough Pharmaceuticals, in partnership with Mended Hearts, sponsored the survey, which was conducted among 1,118 patients who reported having high cholesterol and who were members in a sub-panel of the Harris Interactive Chronic Illness Panel. This survey was composed of 566 respondents currently being treated with cholesterol lowering medicines and 552 currently untreated. The Harris Interactive Chronic Illness Panel(CIP) consists of over 1 million households where members have been screened for more than 50 separate medical conditions. The panel members are recruited from among Harris Interactive's general online consumer panel. The CIP allows targeted and effective sampling on specific populations of interest. Participants receive incentives for each survey they complete. Incentives are in the form of HI Points, which are ultimately redeemable for rewards (like pens, radios, and watches) at various point levels.