National Cholesterol Education Month: Not a Hallmark Holiday

Dr. Kang Health Pro
  • Now that we are all rested after our long Labor Day weekend, I thought it important to remind you that September has been designated National Cholesterol Education Month. Yes, there really is such a thing. There's a breast cancer awareness month, prostate cancer awareness month, a foot health awareness month, and a medical ultrasonographers awareness month. So why not a cholesterol education month? After all, there are over 65 million Americans living with high cholesterol and high cholesterol is one of the main contributors to heart disease. And, heart disease is just happens to be one of the top killers of people in our country.

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    Who has the power to make such a designation? Of course the answer must be some federal organization. In 1985, a branch of the US Department of Health and Human Services called the National Institutes of Health and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute created a program called the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP). The goal of the NCEP is to reduce illness and death from heart disease in the US through the treatment of high cholesterol. Their main tool has been education for both health care providers and the public. They have partnered with over 40 medical and nonmedical organizations and continue to provide educational resources in the form of print, websites, and conferences. Cholesterol education month is another means to emphasize education about high cholesterol.


    How effective has the NCEP been over these years? It's a very pertinent question since it's run by the same federal government that managed the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. In short, the NCEP overall has been effective, yet it appears that it was quick to get out of the gate but now has hit a plateau. The evidence lies in how far the US has come in cholesterol awareness and treatment over the past several decades. Here are the top 10 revealing facts about cholesterol trends in the US:

    1. The percentage of Americans receiving a screening cholesterol test has increased from 35% in the early 1980's to over 75% today.
    2. From the early 1970s to the early 1990s, the average American total cholesterol level fell from 213mg/dl to 206mg/dl. However, the level fell only 3 more points to 203mg/dl over the next decade.
    3. Over the past decade, average LDL levels have fallen from 129mg/dl to 123mg/dl.
    4. Over the past decade, that significant reduction in LDL levels was observed in men >60yrs and women >50yrs. No significant change was seen in younger adults.
    5. Mean HDL levels have not increased significantly since the 1960s.
    6. Mean serum triglyceride levels have increased from 118mg/dl to 123mg/dl in the past decade.
    7. The percentage of Americans considered overweight or obese has increased from 56% to 65% in the past 15yrs. The percentage considered truly obese has increased from 23% to 30%. This is one explanation as to why we are headed in the wrong direction with regards to triglycerides as well why our progress in improving cholesterol levels has stagnated.
    8. ~50% of Americans have a cholesterol level considered borderline or abnormal.
    9. 30-40% of those Americans who have an abnormal cholesterol level are unaware of it.
    10. We, including the federal government, have a long way to go.


  • In honor of National Cholesterol Education Month, I will be writing a few more articles this month that will really focus on the down and dirty of high cholesterol. No doubt some of the content may be a repeat of one of my prior articles, but I figure it never hurts to repeat an important point. After all, the NCEP has been doing it for over 22 years and clearly they still need to continue to do so.

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Published On: September 04, 2007