Prevalence of Cholesterol Treatment Eligibility and Medication Use Among Adults--United States, 2005-2012

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2015 Dec 4;64(47):1305-11. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6447a1.


A high blood level of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) remains a major risk factor for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), although data from 2005 through 2012 has shown a decline in high cholesterol (total and LDL cholesterol) along with an increase in the use of cholesterol-lowering medications. The most recent national guidelines (published in 2013) from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) expand previous recommendations for reducing cholesterol to include lifestyle modifications and medication use as part of complete cholesterol management and to lower risk for ASCVD. Because changes in cholesterol treatment guidelines might magnify existing disparities in care and medication use, it is important to describe persons currently eligible for treatment and medication use, particularly as more providers implement the 2013 ACC/AHA guidelines. To understand baseline estimates of U.S. adults on or eligible for cholesterol treatment, as well as to identify sex and racial/ethnic disparities, CDC analyzed data from the 2005-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES). Because the 2013 ACC/AHA guidelines focus on initiation or continuation of cholesterol treatment, adults meeting the guidelines' eligibility criteria as well as adults who were currently taking cholesterol-lowering medication were assessed as a group. Overall, 36.7% of U.S. adults or 78.1 million persons aged ≥21 years were on or eligible for cholesterol treatment. Within this group, 55.5% were currently taking cholesterol-lowering medication, and 46.6% reported making lifestyle modifications, such as exercising, dietary changes, or controlling their weight, to lower cholesterol; 37.1% reported making lifestyle modifications and taking medication, and 35.5% reported doing neither. Among adults on or eligible for cholesterol-lowering medication, the proportion taking cholesterol-lowering medication was higher for women than men and for non-Hispanic whites (whites) than Mexican-Americans and non-Hispanic blacks (blacks). Further efforts by clinicians and public health practitioners are needed to implement complementary and targeted patient education and disease management programs to reduce sex and racial/ethnic disparities among adults eligible for treatment of cholesterol.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Eligibility Determination / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia / drug therapy*
  • Hypercholesterolemia / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Mexican Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult


  • Anticholesteremic Agents