Nearly a third of both African American men and African American women have LDL-C (bad cholesterol) levels of 130mg/dL or higher according to the American Heart Association. The National Institute of Health considers this level borderline high. This is alarming because high cholesterol— specifically LDL cholesterol—can lead to heart disease, including heart attack and stroke. This is especially concerning as heart disease is responsible for 1 in 4 (24.5%) African American deaths every year.
Cholesterol Counts is an awareness program around Americans’ knowledge about cholesterol, their numbers, and the risks associated with high LDL-C. Based on the first wave of results from Cholesterol Counts, African Americans do not know enough about their cholesterol.
The results show that 62% of African American respondents said they are not sure of or do not recall their LDL cholesterol levels. Additionally, while 28% of African Americans agree managing their high LDL cholesterol is a top priority, 41% of African Americans report they could be doing more to manage their high LDL cholesterol levels.
Dr. Ralph Vicari, cardiologist and member of the Foundation of the National Lipid Association, recently spoke with BlackDoctor.org about the survey findings.
BDO: Why is it so important to understand that “cholesterol counts”?
Dr. Vicari: High cholesterol, and specifically high LDL-C (bad cholesterol), is a serious condition that can lead to heart disease, including heart attack and stroke, which are the number one and number three causes of death in the U.S. It is important for patients to know their levels and talk to a healthcare provider to help manage cholesterol and assess the risk of potential cardiac events.
Cholesterol Counts aims to rally Americans to take an active role in understanding there is more to be done to control high LDL-C, and to reinvigorate the conversation on cholesterol management between patients and their physicians and healthcare providers.
BDO: How do the African American findings compare to the numbers for other groups?
Dr. Vicari: According to results from the Cholesterol Counts Poll, which polled American adults on their cholesterol knowledge and particularly their knowledge of their LDL levels, only 3 percent of African American respondents reported they knew their LDL-C level, while 12 percent of all Americans surveyed reported they knew their LDL-C level. There is also less testing and concern for cholesterol levels in non-Hispanic black people in the U.S. This is alarming, because high cholesterol, and specifically LDL cholesterol, can lead to heart disease, which causes about a quarter of African American deaths every year.
BDO: More than half of respondents aren’t aware of their LDL number – are there possible reasons for the disconnect in not knowing cholesterol numbers are important to know?
Dr. Vicari: Only 50% of Cholesterol Counts respondents under the age of 35 have ever had their cholesterol tested. Therefore, there seems to be a gap in knowledge about LDL-C and one of the most important things that people can do is have their cholesterol levels tested. Many times people need to request cholesterol testing from their doctor or healthcare provider and the Cholesterol Counts Poll found that more than a quarter of African American respondents (26%) report never having their cholesterol tested. The National Lipid Association recommends lipid testing in US adults at least every 5 years. We need to rally Americans to ask for their LDL-C numbers and what they mean for their heart health.
BDO: You mention people often have to request cholesterol testing from their doctor. What conversations about cholesterol should patients be having with their primary doctor?
Dr. Vicari: Knowing your cholesterol levels and talking to a doctor or healthcare provider are important to help manage cholesterol and assess the risk of potential cardiac events. Your doctor can do a blood test, called a lipoprotein profile, to check your cholesterol levels. As a cardiologist, I make it a point to write down and give my patients their numbers, and explain what they mean.
BDO: Once people take the poll, what are next steps?
Dr. Vicari: People can log on to CholesterolCounts.com to review the first wave of poll results on a national- and state-level and to see how their knowledge stacks up to the Americans who have already been counted. Additional results will be announced later this year.
People also should make sure they ask their healthcare provider to test their cholesterol levels. It is important for people to know their levels and talk to a healthcare provider about their heart health, how to manage cholesterol and assess the risk of potential cardiac events, like heart attack and stroke.
To learn more about cholesterol and the Cholesterol Counts poll, visit www.CholesterolCounts.com.
PUBLIC NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the Urban Intellectuals, affiliates or partners.