Statcast Number 3 Transcript

DATE: December 12, 2007

PUBLICATION: “High Serum Total Cholesterol – An Indicator for Monitoring Cholesterol Lowering Efforts: U.S. Adults, 2005-2006″

SPOKESPERSON: Susan Schober, senior epidemiologist with the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, discusses the continued drop in cholesterol levels in the U.S.:

SCHOBER: “Overall this is a good news story because cholesterol levels are going down. The Public Health Service set a series of health goals for the country and lowering cholesterol levels was one of them. One of the goals was to lower the average to less than 200 and we have achieved that but it means more can be done with regard to promoting healthy behaviors to improve cholesterol levels…”

ANNOUNCER: “STATCAST… December 12, 2007”

HOST: “Susan Schober is a senior epidemiologist with the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Schober’s team of researchers has released a new study on cholesterol and found among other things that the average cholesterol level U.S. is 199 which is within the clinically desirable range for individuals…. Susan, what were some of the key findings in this study on cholesterol?”

SCHOBER: “The major finding is that the average cholesterol levels in the us population have declined…”

HOST: “So this is good news.”

SCHOBER: “It is good news because overall cholesterol levels are declining, but the decline was seen mainly in older people – that is 60 years and older for women and 40 yrs and older for men. There hasn’t been a decline in any other age groups. So this indicates that much more can be done with regard to promoting healthy lifestyles to reduce cholesterol.”

HOST: “Were you able to determine why this decline occurred?”

SCHOBER: “We only looked at total cholesterol levels and have not looked at reasons for the decline… that we observed … We know from previous work that cholesterol levels have been declining since 1960 basically and for much of that time period the decline was related to improvements in that people were eating less saturated fat and high cholesterol foods Over the last 10 years previous work has also shown that the declines has been related to increased use of cholesterol lowering medication.”

HOST: “How many people have what is considered to be “high cholesterol?”

SCHOBER: “We defined high cholesterol as a level of 240 and 40 and higher, and 16% of people had a cholesterol level that high.”

HOST: “So what should people aim for with regard to their cholesterol?”

SCHOBER: “In general people should aim for a cholesterol level of 200 or lower but it really is dependent on their bad cholesterol level, so bad cholesterol needs to be looked at specifically as well as the good cholesterol – we only looked at total. Also it depends on what other risk factors people have for developing heart disease.”

HOST: “So it’s really a case-by-case basis.”

SCHOBER: “It is a case by case basis and if a person wants to know more about their cholesterol status they should talk to their their physician about it.”

HOST: “Why have cholesterol levels dropped over the past thirty years while obesity has risen over the same period?”

SCHOBER: “Well, in the earlier years we know that cholesterol levels were declining because of changes in diet, that there was less – people were eating less foods with high fat and high cholesterol – so that was despite the fact that people were still as a population getting heavier… In the last 10 years, we know that the decline in cholesterol levels – that it has been linked to the increased use of cholesterol lowering medication.”

HOST: “Any other important findings you’d like to mention?”

SCHOBER: “Well I would like to say that we also looked at whether people were obtaining the recommended screening for high cholesterol and we found that this percentage was fairly high, it was about 70%. But it’s interesting to note that even so, about 10% of people – well, actually about 8% of people – had a high cholesterol level but weren’t aware of it – had never been told by a doctor that their cholesterol level was high… so that to me really indicates that more can be done with regard to screening and people getting tested for their cholesterol levels…”

HOST: “Our thanks to Susan Schober for joining us on this edition of “StatCast.” This has been a production of the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.”


Page last reviewed: November 17, 2009