American Association for Clinical Chemistry
Better health through laboratory medicine
February 2008 Clinical Laboratory News: Mean Total Cholesterol Levels Fall


February 2008: Volume 34, Number 2

Mean Total Cholesterol Levels Fall

Mean serum total cholesterol levels in adults age 20 and older have fallen below 200 mg/dL, according to a report from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. The report, based on data from CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, notes that the figure for 2005–2006 was 199 mg/dL, a drop of five points from the mean of 204 mg/dL in 1999–2000.

CDC authors note that the 2005–2006 figure meets a Healthy People 2010 target calling for mean serum cholesterol levels among adults below 200 mg/dL.

Reduction in mean serum total cholesterol for men over 40 and women over 60—the groups most likely to take statins—appears to have driven the decline in total cholesterol levels. Between 1999–2000 and 2005–2006, mean levels among men ages 40–59 dropped 9 points, from 214 mg/dL to 205 mg/dL, and dipped 17 points, from 206 mg/dL to 189 mg/dL, for men age 60 and older. Meanwhile, women age 60 and older had a decline of 15 points, from a mean of 224 mg/dL to 209 mg/dL. While the report did not specifically mention statin use, it did note little change in total cholesterol levels during this same period of time for people in other sex and age groups.



While the decline in total cholesterol levels is good news, the report doesn’t give a complete picture of the state of cardiovascular risk due to blood lipids, the report notes. “Other fractions of total cholesterol, specifically LDL and HDL, are needed to assess the clinical risk of high total serum cholesterol in individuals. These components of cholesterol were not addressed in this analysis.”

Overall, 15.7% of adults age 20 and older had high serum total cholesterol— defined as 240 mg/dL—during 2005–2006. More women had high total cholesterol than men, especially after age 60. Overall, 17.3% of women had high total cholesterol, versus 13.8% of men. Among those age 60 and older, 23% of women had high total cholesterol, versus 10% of men.

One piece of good news is rates of cholesterol screening that increase with age. During 2005–2006, 70% of women reported being screened in the previous five years, versus 65% of men. Both men and women age 60 or older had higher screening rates, 91% and 88% respectively.

View the report at the CDC Website.