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Having high cholesterol puts you at risk of developing heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. People of all ages and backgrounds can have high cholesterol.

America's Cholesterol Burden

  • 71 million American adults (33.5%) have high LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol.1
  • Only 1 out of every 3 adults with high LDL cholesterol has the condition under control.1
  • Less than half of adults with high LDL cholesterol get treatment.1
  • People with high total cholesterol have approximately twice the risk of heart disease as people with optimal levels. A desirable level is lower than 200 mg/dL.
  • The average total cholesterol level for adult Americans is about 200 mg/dL, which is borderline high risk.2

Levels Vary by Ethnicity

Although anyone can have high cholesterol, rates vary by race, ethnicity, and gender. Below are the percentages of people with high LDL cholesterol (LDL-C > 130 mg/dL) in the United States.2

Race or Ethnic Group Men (%) Women (%)
Non-Hispanic Blacks 34.427.7
Mexican Americans 41.931.6
Non-Hispanic Whites 30.532.0
All 32.531.0

Americans Are Making Progress

  • Between 1999 and 2010, the percentage of American adults with high total cholesterol decreased from 18.3% to 13.4%.3
  • The percentage of American adults with high LDL cholesterol has remained around 34% over the past decade, but treatment of high LDL cholesterol has increased from 28.4% in 1999–2002 to 48.1% in 2005–2008.1

Talk with Your Doctor About Cholesterol

  • The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends that all adults have their cholesterol levels checked once every five years.
  • During 2009–2010, 68% of Americans age 20 and over reported that they had their cholesterol checked within the previous five years. Less than half (49.7%) of Hispanic men were screened for high cholesterol in the previous five years.3
  • In 2009, 96 million visits to doctors' offices (9.2% of all visits) included a cholesterol test.4


  1. CDC. Vital signs: prevalence, treatment, and control of high levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. United States, 1999–2002 and 2005–2008. MMWR. 2011;60(4):109–14.
  2. Roger VL, Go AS, Lloyd-Jones DM, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2012 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2012;125(1):e2–220.
  3. Carroll, MD, Kit, BK, Lacher, DA. Total and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in adults, 2009–2010. NCHS data brief no. 92. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2012.
  4. CDC. National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2009 Summary Tables [PDF-381K]. Accessed July 17, 2012.

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