High Total and Low HDL Cholesterols Declining in the US

Pam Harrison

December 03, 2015

ATLANTA, GA — The prevalence of both hypercholesterolemia as well as low levels of HDL cholesterol are declining among US adults to the point where the majority of residents between 20 and 39 years of age as well as those over 60 now meet Healthy People 2020 targets for total cholesterol, a National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) data brief indicates[1].

Between 2011 and 2014, approximately 12% of adults had high levels of total cholesterol during the 4-year surveillance interval. Approximately 20% of adults under the age of 60 had low levels of HDL cholesterol during the same 4-year survey interval.

This compared with 13.4% of adults who had hypercholesterolemia between 2009 and 2010, while 21.3% of adults had low levels of HDL cholesterol during the same survey interval.

However, the prevalence of hypercholesterolemia in US adults between 2011 and 2014 varied by age and gender.

Prevalence of High Total Cholesterol in the US 2011–2014

Age 20 and over (men vs women) 20–39 (men vs women) 40–59 (men vs women) 60 and over (men vs women)
Prevalence (%) 11.9 (10.6 vs 13) 7.5 (8.2 vs 6.8) 16 (15.3 vs 16.7) 12.9 (7.3 vs 17.7)

"Overall, the percentage of adults with high total cholesterol was lower for non-Hispanic black (8.6%) than for non-Hispanic white (12.5%) and Hispanic adults," Margaret Carroll and colleagues write. "And the same race and Hispanic-origin patterns were seen in men . . . and in women."

On the other hand, significantly more men had low levels of HDL cholesterol over the same 4-year interval. Again, HDL cholesterol levels varied by age and gender.

Prevalence of Low HDL Cholesterol in the US 2011–2014

Age 20 and over (men vs women) 20–39 (men vs women) 40–59 (men vs women) 60 and over (men vs women)
Prevalence (%) 18.7 (27.9 vs 10) 19.5 (27.5 vs 11.7) 19.8 (30.2 vs 9.9) 15.3 (25 vs 7.2)

This time, the prevalence of low HDL cholesterol was lower in non-Hispanic blacks and in non-Hispanic Asian adults than it was in non-Hispanic whites and Hispanic adults.

As researchers point out, one of the goals of the Healthy People 2020 initiative is to reduce the percentage of adults with hypercholesterolemia to 13.5% of the overall adult population in the US.

With only about 12% of US adults now having high cholesterol levels, this goal has been met, with the only adults not achieving the Healthy People 2020 target being adults between the ages of 40 and 59 years.

Importantly as well, the target has been met in both sexes and in all ethnic groups except for non-Hispanic white women.

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