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Not Enough Americans with High Cholesterol are taking Medication, Study Finds

Update Date: Dec 04, 2015 03:14 PM EST

Not enough Americas are treating their high cholesterol, which is a risk factor for several severe conditions such as heart attack and stroke.

According to a new study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 44.5 percent of Americans with high cholesterol are not on any cholesterol-lowering drugs even though these drugs could effectively reduce their levels, and their risk of heart attack and stroke.

The federal agency found that African Americans were the most vulnerable group. Out of the 39.5 percent of African Americans who could benefit from taking a cholesterol-lowering drug, 54 percent of them were not on any medications. For whites, out of 38.4 percent who would be considered to be eligible for cholesterol-lowering drugs, 42 percent of them did not take any.

In terms of gender, the researchers found that women took cholesterol-lowering drugs more than men did (58.6 percent versus 53.9 percent in all eligible women and men).

On top of not taking medications, the team found that a lot of people with high cholesterol were not making lifestyle changes that could help lower their risk of cardiovascular events. Out of 78.1 million adults with high cholesterol, 46.6 percent of them stated that they were actively reducing their risk by exercising more and eating better. 37.1 percent said that they made lifestyle changes and took medications while 35.5 percent admitted to doing nothing to reduce their rise.

"Nearly 800,000 people die in the U.S. each year from cardiovascular diseases - that's one in every three deaths - and high cholesterol continues to be a major risk factor," study researcher Carla Mercado said in a statement reported by LiveScience. "This study reveals opportunities to reduce existing disparities through targeted patient education and cholesterol management programs."

Even though cholesterol-lowering drugs can be life saving, their side effects often deter people away from them. Some of these effects include muscle pain and fatigue. Some people, about one in 100, can develop type 2 diabetes.

The findings were published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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