American Association for Clinical Chemistry
Better health through laboratory medicine
March 2011 Clinical Laboratory News: News Brief


High Blood Pressure, Cholesterol Go Untreated

A new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that two out of three adults with high cholesterol and half of adults with high blood pressure are not being properly treated for these conditions even though effective and relatively low-cost treatments exist.

The report, “Prevalence, Treatment, and Control of High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol” emphasizes that control rates for high blood pressure and high cholesterol remain especially low among people in certain socioeconomic and ethnic groups. Furthermore, people who lack health insurance are the least likely to have their cholesterol and blood pressure under control.

Strikingly, those with health insurance aren’t much better at keeping their cholesterol and blood pressure in check. More than 80% of those with high cholesterol or high blood pressure have private or public health insurance.

Today, an estimated 71 million adults have high cholesterol, and according to the report, even this familiar health marker is not understood by the public. LDL cholesterol should be <160 mg/dL for people without heart disease or diabetes and <130 mg/dL, for people at intermediate risk of developing coronary heart disease within the next 10 years.

Because the two major risk factors for heart attacks, strokes, and related vascular diseases are high blood pressure and high cholesterol, the report paints a bleak picture. These diseases kill in excess of 800,000 Americans each year, more than any other disease. Of those who die, 150,000 are younger than age 65.

The report also examined the costs associated with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Cardiovascular disease costs the nation an estimated $300 billion each year in direct medical costs, and those costs are rapidly increasing. Treatment for cardiovascular disease accounts for $1 in every $6 U.S. health dollars spent.

To improve control of these vital health parameters, the authors of the report call for a comprehensive approach that involves policy and systems changes to improve healthcare access, quality of preventive care, and patient adherence to treatment.

The full report is available at online.