Nearly 50% of Hispanics, Latinos in U.S. don’t know they have high cholesterol

Approximately half of Hispanic and Latino adults in the U.S. were unaware they had high cholesterol and fewer than one-third received treatment for the condition, according to a cohort study in four geographically diverse communities.

Carlos J. Rodriguez, MD, MPH, of the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., and colleagues published their findings online in the Journal of the American Heart Association on June 24.

The HCHS/SOL (Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos) study examined adults at centers affiliated with San Diego State University in California, Northwestern University in Illinois, Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and the University of Miami in Florida.

From June 2008 to July 2011, the researchers screened and enrolled 16,415 adults between 18 and 74 years old. They noted 52 million Hispanics live in the U.S. and are the largest and fastest-growing racial and ethnic minority in the country. The study included Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Central Americans, Dominicans and South Americans.

Of the participants, 17 percent had diabetes, 25 percent had hypertension and 40 percent were obese. The mean total cholesterol was 196.0 mg/dL, the mean non-high-density lipoprotein (non-HDL) cholesterol was 145.8 mg/dL and the mean low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol was 120.9 mg/dL.

The overall prevalence of high cholesterol was 45 percent: 15 percent had high total cholesterol, 35 percent had elevated non-HDL cholesterol and 37 percent had high LDL cholesterol.

Rodriguez et al defined awareness as participants being told by a healthcare professional that they had high cholesterol. Of the participants with high cholesterol, 49 percent were not aware they had the condition. Among people with an LDL cholesterol of 190 mg/dL or higher, 63 percent were aware they had high cholesterol.

The rates of awareness were higher in women than in men in all age categories. In addition, participants born in the U.S. were significantly less likely to know they had high cholesterol compared with participants born in foreign countries.

The researchers also found 30 percent of people with high cholesterol took their prescriptions, while only 14 percent of people with an LDL cholesterol of 190 mg/dL or higher received treatment. As participants got older, they were more likely to take medications, although 32 percent of middle-age (45 to 64 years old) and 54 percent of older people (65 years old and older) received treatment.

Rodriguez et al noted a few limitations, including that the results may not be generalizable to all Hispanics and Latinos in the U.S. They also wrote that the study did not include older people in nursing homes or other institutions and may underestimate the percentage of people who are unaware they have high cholesterol or are receiving treatment. In addition, people self-reported their awareness instead of having it objectively measured.

“Not surprisingly, our observational data indicated that once treated, achievement of optimal (high cholesterol) control is possible among Hispanic/Latinos,” they wrote. “Complementary and targeted public health programs to raise (high cholesterol) awareness and increase the proportion of Hispanic/ Latinos receiving (high cholesterol) treatment and achieving (high cholesterol) control are needed to reduce healthcare disparities in this population.”