Total Cholesterol Levels Have Fallen Since 1976

But, along with increase in obesity prevalence, triglyceride levels have increased

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 3 (HealthDay News) -- According to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data from three time periods spanning 1976 to 2006, there is both good and bad news about Americans' lipid levels -- cholesterol levels are going down, but triglycerides are rising along with the prevalence of obesity; the research has been published in the Oct. 1 issue of the American Journal of Cardiology.

Jerome D. Cohen, M.D., of the St. Louis University School of Medicine, and colleagues examined NHANES data from three time periods to assess lipid level trends.

The researchers found that, overall, age-adjusted mean total cholesterol dropped from 210 to 200 mg/dL, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol dropped from 134 to 119 mg/dL, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol increased from 50 to 53 mg/dL from the first observation period (1976 to 1980) to the most recent (1999 to 2006). The number of those having total cholesterol classified as high decreased 9 percent from the 1976 to 1980 time period to the 1999 to 2006 time period; those with high LDL cholesterol (at least 160 mg/dL) showed a decrease of 8 percent over this same interval. The prevalence of obesity doubled, and this was significantly associated with increased triglycerides.

"This analysis of NHANES data from 1976 to 1980 to 1999 to 2006 shows that total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels have decreased toward a desirable range for the total and age-adjusted samples. The large increase in lipid-altering pharmacotherapy use is a likely contributor to this downward trend. In a countertrend, however, obesity and triglyceride levels have increased and their potential impact long term on cardiovascular disease is of great concern," the authors write.

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