High cholesterol is far more common than previously believed and not treated sufficiently, according to new research out of Denmark.
Scientists with the University of Copenhagen and Herlev Hospital examined the medical charts of nearly 70,000 Danes and found 1 in every 137 people has hereditary high blood cholesterol — more than three times as many as expected.
“That corresponds to 40,000 people with the disease in the Danish population of 5.5 million," said Dr. Børge Nordestgaard, who helped lead the research that led to the findings, published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
These new figures suggest about 50 million people worldwide have high blood cholesterol — and most don’t know it.
One-third of Danes with high blood cholesterol already had coronary disease, and only half were being treated with cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, the results showed. People with hereditary high blood cholesterol not undergoing treatment with statins have a 1,200 percent higher risk of developing coronary disease.
"Never before anywhere in the world has the ordinary population been studied to see how many people and families with hereditary high blood cholesterol there actually are,” said Dr. Marianne Benn, a physician also from the University of Copenhagen.
“It was previously assumed that only 1 out of every 500 people had it, so it was quite a surprise for us suddenly to find 3.5 times as many people with this serious disease. At the same time, it was also startling to discover that a disease that can easily be prevented by treatment to reduce blood cholesterol has not been treated sufficiently."
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronary disease is the most common cause of death in adults worldwide, causing at least 17 million deaths a year.