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Half of people with high cholesterol are unaware of it. Italian study

An Italian study shows that half of people with high cholesterol are not aware of it. Yet dyslipidemia is crucial in the onset and progression of atherosclerosis, which leads to the development of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death worldwide. (1)

High cholesterol and cardiovascular risk, the Italian study

A systematic review it was conducted by researchers from Gemelli, a polyclinic of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Rome with the financial and technical support of Danone Italia. The company has in fact arranged for participation in the research by filling in a questionnaire on a website website dedicated.

Over 65 thousand people (65.892), mean age 52,5 years, 53,7% men, participated by reporting information corresponding to a cardiovascular risk factor: blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol, diet, exercise, smoking and blood sugar.

Diet, exercise and cholesterol

The diet it is an important variable in the control of dyslipidemia. Study participants were asked to declare

- daily consumption of fruit and vegetables. A healthy diet, in fact, conceptually involves the consumption of at least three portions of fruit and / or vegetables per day (at least 400 g / day), (2)

- the weekly frequency of consumption of meat, eggs, yogurt, rice, sausages, milk, pasta, legumes, cheese, bread and other cereals.

Another variable exercise is decisive in controlling cholesterol. Participants in the study thus stated that they practice for more than 2 per week. If so, did they specify the type: walking less than an hour a day, low impact sports (yoga, tai chi and pilates), walking (more than an hour a day), cardio activities (such as brisk walking, running and swimming ) and muscle strengthening activities (weight lifting, for example).

The ideal profile

Eventually of the survey, 'virtuous' habits were confirmed as favoring cardiovascular health: never / former smoker, regular commitment to physical activity, body mass index (BMI) 18,5-24,9, healthy diet, total cholesterol in the untreated blood <200 mg / dl, absence of diabetes and untreated blood pressure <120/80 mmHg.

To the other extreme, participants who scored low, indicating a high risk to his health, were asked to contact their doctor to urgently change their lifestyle.

At risk without knowing it

Overall Researchers found elevated blood cholesterol levels in about 60% of the participants, with mean values ​​higher in women than men (210 mg / dl vs. 199 mg / dl) and in young people compared to the elderly (206 mg / dl vs. 196 mg / dl). This result is at least partly explained by the higher percentage of elderly people who take cholesterol-lowering drugs.

The result more interesting (and worrying) than the study shows that 56% of all participants believed they had normal cholesterol values, while only 40% of them showed values ​​<200 mg / dl. At the same time, more than 30% of all participants who thought they had normal cholesterol levels instead showed values> 200 mg / dL.

We need awareness campaigns

Poor perception of one's own state of health is moreover compatible with the evidence that more than one third of the population involved in the study did not carry out a cholesterol check in the previous year. Women are more 'fugitives' than men (42% vs. 35%) and younger than the elderly (42% vs. 22%).

'These data are very impressive considering that the lack of awareness of the presence of a dyslipidemia condition could lead to a progression of subclinical atherosclerosis which then evolves into the development of CVD (cardiovascular disease, ed). Also, thinking you have a normal cholesterol profile leads to less frequent screening', observe the researchers, who hope for the organization of'large-scale awareness campaigns, along with preferential lanes for access to health checks'.

Marta Strinati

Cover image from Cholesterol Medication - Physician's Weekly


(1) Anna Maria Martone, Francesco Landi, Luca Petricca, Annamaria Paglionico, Rosa Liperoti, Maria Camilla Cipriani, Francesca Ciciarello, Sara Rocchi, Riccardo Calvani, Anna Picca, Emanuele Marzetti, Luca Santoro. Prevalence of dyslipidemia and hypercholesterolemia awareness: results from the Lookup 7+ online project. European Journal of Public Health, Volume 32, Issue 3, June 2022, Pages 402–407, https://doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/ckab224

(2) Marta Strinati. Two apples a day keeps cholesterol away. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade) 16.12.19.

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Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".

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