Cholesterol levels continue encouraging trend in US; disparities remain among subgroups

Americans are holding steady with their cholesterol levels, continuing a trend of improvement observed over the last 17 years, according to data released Oct. 26 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The estimated proportion of adult residents with high total cholesterol dropped from 18.3 percent in 1999 to 12.4 percent in 2016, the CDC reported. In addition, the proportion of Americans with low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol—the “good” cholesterol—dropped from 22.2 percent in 2007 to 18.4 percent in 2016.

High cholesterol was defined as serum total cholesterol of 240 milligrams per deciliter or greater, while low HDL cholesterol was defined as serum HDL cholesterol less than 40 mg/dL. Both are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Here are more takeaways from the report, which included estimates for individuals 20 and older:

  • The 12.4 percent of Americans with high cholesterol in 2015-16 is the second-lowest estimate since 1999-2000. Eleven percent in 2013-14 is the lowest.
  • 28.5 percent of men and 8.9 percent of women had low HDL cholesterol.
  • 13.2 percent of women and 11.4 percent of men had high cholesterol. The 40-59 age range had the highest proportion for both genders (16.5 percent men; 17.7 percent women). However, there was a significant difference in the over-60 group, with 17.2 percent of women having high total cholesterol versus 6.9 percent of men.
  • Hispanics were most likely to have low HDL cholesterol levels in both men (36.2 percent) and women (13.8 percent).
  • In age-adjusted figures, Hispanic women showed the lowest prevalence of high total cholesterol (9.0 percent), while white women had the highest (14.8 percent). Among men, Hispanics had the highest prevalence at 13.1 percent.