Nearly half of U.S. adults eligible for cholesterol-lowering treatment do not take medications

Nearly half of adults in the U.S. who were eligible for cholesterol-lowering medications from 2005 to 2012 did not receive treatment, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report released on Dec. 4.

Lead researcher Carla Mercado, PhD, and colleagues from the CDC noted that 36.7 percent of U.S. adults received medications or were eligible for treatment based on the most recent guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association.

Of that group, 55.5 percent received cholesterol-lowering medications, 46.6 percent said they made lifestyle modifications, 37.1 percent said they took medications and made lifestyle modifications and 35.5 percent said they did neither. Examples of lifestyle modifications included exercising and dietary changes.

“Further efforts by clinicians and public health practitioners are needed to implement complementary and targeted patient education and disease management programs to reduce sex and racial/ethnic disparities among adults eligible for treatment of cholesterol,” the researchers wrote.

Women eligible for cholesterol-lowering medications were more likely to receive treatment compared with men, while non-Hispanic whites were more likely than Mexican-Americans and non-Hispanic blacks to take cholesterol-lowering medications.

The researchers analyzed data from the 2005 to 2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, an ongoing national survey conducted every two years among adults who are at least 21 years old. This study included 8,644 participants.

The researchers found that 40.8 percent of men, 32.9 percent of women, 39.5 percent of blacks, 38.4 percent of whites and 24.2 percent of Mexican-Americans were on or eligible for treatment.

In addition, 52.9 percent of men, 58.6 percent of women, 46.0 percent of blacks, 58.0 percent of whites and 47.1 percent of Mexican-American who were on or eligible for treatment received medications.

Limitations of the study, according to the researchers, included that it could have underestimated the proportion of adults eligible for treatment because it did no included older adults in nursing homes or other institutions. Further, the lifestyle modification estimates were only for 2005 to 2010, the self-reported data could have been subject to recall bias and the prevalence of eligibility and treatment use may have been overestimated because the study was aligned with 2013 guidelines.