New international survey shows people are unaware of cholesterol risk

September 04, 2001

According to the recent GOAL (Global Opinions and Awareness of choLesterol) survey of 7,000 individuals, eighty-six percent recognise the importance of having healthy cholesterol levels, and more than half are aware that high cholesterol can cause heart disease (58 percent), a leading cause of illness and death worldwide. However, the majority of respondents do not know what their cholesterol levels are (83 percent), or what a desirable cholesterol level for healthy adults should be (76 percent). The GOAL findings underscore the need for people to take high cholesterol and heart disease personally, and become aware of their cholesterol levels and goals to reduce the risk.

"Cholesterol is not something people can see or feel, so they tend not to think of it as a threat," said Professor Leif Erhardt, chief of cardiology research unit, department of cardiology, University of Lund, Malmö University Hospital, Sweden. "People need to understand that you don't necessarily have to be overweight or elderly to have high cholesterol-anyone can develop it. That is why people should discuss their cholesterol levels and goals with their doctor and, and if needed, manage their risk through diet and lifestyle changes, and medication if necessary."

The GOAL survey was conducted in Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. Findings reveal that only thirteen percent of respondents believe that they are at "high" or "very high" risk for heart disease. However, more than thirty-five percent of all respondents reported having two or more risk factors, which would place them at high risk for heart disease. Of these high-risk people, seventy percent do not associate these factors with an increased risk, incorrectly identifying themselves at only "medium" or "low" risk for developing heart disease.

A similar cholesterol awareness survey recently conducted in Sweden shows that seven out of ten Swedes also ignore the risk of high cholesterol levels. Of the 1001 respondents, 50 percent have never had their cholesterol levels checked, and only 32 percent of those who have can actually remember their results.

By the year 2020, coronary heart disease will claim 11.1 million lives annually. In order to combat this epidemic, cholesterol management guidelines around the world are becoming increasingly aggressive, taking into account an individual's "global risk," or combination of risk factors (e.g., high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, heredity, diabetes), and how they interact to determine a person's overall risk of developing heart disease.

"It is important that people, no matter where they live, work with their doctor to identify their personal risk and cholesterol goals," said Dr. Martin Cowie, department of cardiology, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Foresterhill, Aberdeen, United Kingdom. "People who have other risk factors need to be that much more vigilant about managing their cholesterol, even if it is only moderately high."

GOAL cholesterol education brochures and posters have been developed to help motivate people to take action to reduce their risk of heart disease. These materials will be available through doctors' offices in many countries worldwide in the coming months. The brochures and posters invite people to take steps to identify their absolute risk, discuss their risk with their physician, and take action if necessary to reverse the course of heart disease.
Ipsos UK conducted the GOAL survey, which was commissioned by Pfizer Inc, marketer of atorvastatin, the leading cholesterol-lowering medication worldwide.

Pfizer Inc discovers, develops, manufactures and markets leading prescription medicines, for humans and animals, and many of the world's best-known consumer products.

Ketchum UK

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