More than 90% of adults surveyed are unaware of their cholesterol levels, or have never had their cholesterol levels tested, according to a multinational survey published by the European Atherosclerosis Society (EAS).
The Think Again About Cholesterol survey included more than 12,000 adults from 11 European countries (Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom), as well as Japan.
High levels of bad cholesterol can lead to different cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack, or stroke. It is recommended that adults with low risk of high levels of bad cholesterol should get tested every five years.
For those taking medication to control high cholesterol, most guidelines recommend an annual test once their target level is reached.
The results further showed that nearly half of those surveyed are worried about cancer (45%), while one in four worried about heart disease (27%).
However, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Europe has the greatest prevalence per capita of high cholesterol in the world, and cardiovascular disease causes almost half of all deaths across the continent.
Cholesterol, smoking and high blood pressure are considered among the most important modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
When asked about which factors most impact heart health, more survey respondents indicated several other issues ahead of high cholesterol, including being overweight, stress and high blood pressure.
The EAS said that the survey highlights the need for additional educational efforts and resources to help people better understand how high cholesterol is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Earlier this year, cardiovascular researchers called for new and official guidelines for the level of bad cholesterol, particularly for high-risk patients, as new research shows that when it comes to the amount of bad cholesterol in the blood, the lowest level possible is the best for the patient.
Professor Olov Wiklund, of Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, in Sweden, said that “despite efforts to educate people on the importance of diet and exercise along with recent treatment advances, more progress is still needed”.
While it’s a positive step for Europeans to know the significance of having too much bad cholesterol, Wiklund said, the survey results show that there is hard to convince people that they can do something about it.
Wiklund added that the EAS is committed to encouraging Europeans to take better control of their cardiovascular disease risk factors, by motivating them to get their cholesterol levels tested, and understanding if their levels put them at risk for cardiovascular disease.
Europeans suffer from the highest bad cholesterol in the world, with a rate of 54% for both sexes, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
According to a 2011 report by the Cardiovascular Resource Group, 133.3 million people in the five biggest EU countries (Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the UK) suffer from too much bad cholesterol, comparable to the overall number in the United States (135.1 million).
Statistics in the report show that the numbers have grown steadily over the past years.
- European Atherosclerosis Society: Think again about cholesterol