Patients with high cholesterol at a loss for what to do next

By Greg Hamilton • Published: July 5th, 2017
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Once people are told by a health care provider they have high cholesterol, most seem to understand they need to manage their condition. But many are not at all sure how to do it. Also, there is a disconnect between people’s perceptions about cholesterol and the significant impact it can have on their health.

These are just two of the key findings from a new survey by the American Heart Association that aimed to find out what people know about the risks of cholesterol, particularly its connection to heart disease and stroke. Researchers also sought to learn more about how patients interact with their health care providers to manage their risks.

The nationwide survey included nearly 800 people with either a history of heart attack or stroke or at least one major risk factor, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes. Nearly 95 million American adults have high cholesterol, which causes about 2.6 million deaths each year. Yet the survey found 47 percent of the respondents with a known risk factor had not had their cholesterol level checked in the past year.

The Heart Association said the survey showed an alarming lack of communication between health care providers and those most at risk. Most respondents with high cholesterol said they understood the importance of managing it, but they were confused, discouraged or uncertain about how to do it. They were least informed about their target body weight and the differences between the types of cholesterol.

The group has launched an initiative that combines greater public awareness with best practice guidelines to help providers and patients work together to identify health risks and to agree on a treatment plan.