December 5, 1995
Web posted at: 12:25 a.m. EST
From Correspondent Eugenia Halsey
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A decade ago, most people didn't know what cholesterol was. Since then, 70 to 80 million people in the United States have had theirs checked. But health experts say there's still room for improvement.
Getting the test has become routine among those who are concerned about the effect of a high cholesterol level on their health or who have a history of heart disease in their families.
According to a survey of nearly 2,500 adults by the National Institutes of Health, 75 percent have had their cholesterol checked -- up from 65 percent in 1990. And 69 percent know that a desirable level of total cholesterol is below 200.
More and more doctors and patients are also differentiating between the so-called good cholesterol (HDL) and the bad cholesterol (LDL).
"The survey results show that professionals and the public have taken the importance of cholesterol-lowering to heart," said Dr. James Cleeman of the National Cholesterol Education Program. "Cholesterol education is working."
Ten years ago, the government started its campaign to get people to watch their cholesterol. The campaign stressed on the link between high cholesterol and heart disease and the fact that animal fats are a chief source of cholesterol.
Since 1972, cholesterol levels nationwide have declined and and deaths from heart disease have dropped almost 50 percent. But health experts say the work isn't finished.
Heart disease affects more than 13 million Americans. It's estimated that up to 85 percent of these patients would benefit from lowering their cholesterol levels by diet or drugs. But the survey shows only 27 percent of them are on diets and only 20 percent are on drug treatment.
Another disappointing finding: there's been no increase in the last five years in the number of people who report being on a cholesterol-lowering diet. However, the researchers think there may have been confusion over the survey question, since other surveys show fat consumption is continuing to decline.
In the future, health experts say, they hope to see greater progress in preventing heart disease as more Americans get the message to exercise, eat right, and lose weight.
Copyright © 1995 Cable News Network, Inc.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.