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Study Explains Why Fewer People With Severe Cholesterol Are On Statin Therapy

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More people with severely elevated cholesterol levels are not taking their proper medications and many are not even taking medications at all.

The study, published Monday in American Heart Association's Circulation journal, used metadata from a 15-year census conducted by the National Health and Nutrition Examination beginning in 1999. A total of 42,471 American adults aged 20 and above recorded bad cholesterol levels of 190 mg/dl and higher.

Researchers used self-reported screening and statin therapy as measurements. Although the population's cholesterol awareness is relatively high at 80 percent for adults with hypercholesterolemia, statin use is way lower.

The survey yielded that statin use is only 52.3 percent of adults screened with probable high cholesterol and 37.6 percent in those with severe conditions. This is despite the fact that 30 percent of adults with hypercholesterolemia were prescribed with high doses of statin.

Statins are drug class used to significantly reduce levels of fats such as cholesterol and triglycerides in the bloodstream.

Uninsured Patients At Risk

It was found that the prevalence of intermittent or non-use of cholesterol-reducing medications is higher in younger individuals who are uninsured and with no regular source of healthcare funds.

In the 20 to 39 age bracket, 62 percent were screened within the past five years, and 64 percent are aware of having severe cholesterol. Unfortunately, only 13 percent of this sample reported having taken statins.

Dr. Emily Bucholz from Boston Children's Hospital said that patients of a younger age have increased risk for cardiovascular diseases because they are less likely to have statin therapy.

"Young adults may be less likely to think that they are at risk of cardiovascular disease, and clinicians may be less likely to initiate statin therapy in this population," said lead author Bucholz.

Bucholz added that it is also likely that physicians divert from prescribing statins to encouraging lifestyle modification as the first-line treatment for patients with elevated cholesterols.

Meanwhile, 85 percent of surveyed older patients aged at least 60 years old were aware of their cholesterol levels, and 51 percent of them regularly received statins.

Twenty-nine percent of uninsured patients were documented to be on statins compared with 48 percent of insured individuals.

The National Cholesterol Education Program's Adult Treatment Panel III, together with the American College of Cardiology and AHA, strongly recommends statin for patients with elevated cholesterol levels.

Joseph Hill, chief editor of Circulation, cautioned concerned individuals to take the necessary drug treatment and lifestyle changes to prevent the development of cardiovascular diseases in the latter part of life.

The researchers recommended further investigation on how stakeholders can increase treatment percentages.

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