In 2017, 34.6 percent of Delaware residents age 18 years and older reported they had been diagnosed with high cholesterol (down slightly from 39.1 percent in 2015). That means more than 225,294 Delaware adults know they have high cholesterol, according to the Delaware Behavioral Risk Survey (BRFS). Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in the blood. The body needs it to build healthy cells. However, when there is too much cholesterol in the blood, it can build up in the arteries reducing the space for blood to flow, causing less blood to flow to the heart and other organs.
Trend in Adult High Cholesterol Prevalence in Delaware:
The BRFS asks about cholesterol every other year. The prevalence was statistically unchanged among Delaware adults for five years, but was down slightly in 2017.
The prevalence of high cholesterol increases with age. Only 18.1 percent of Delaware adults age 18-44 have been told they have high cholesterol. However, 34.5 percent of adults age 45-54, 44.7 percent of adults age 55-64, and 50.5 percent of adults age 65 years and older have been told they have high cholesterol. These increases are statistically significant.
Women have a lower prevalence of high cholesterol compared to men; 30.2 percent of Delaware women have been told they have high cholesterol, compared to 35.1 percent of men.
Non-Hispanic white Delawareans reported having slightly higher prevalence of high cholesterol (35.2 percent) than African American adults (30.6 percent). However, this difference was not statistically significant.
There was very little difference in the prevalence of high cholesterol among Delaware adults with differing educational levels: 34 percent of Delaware adults with less than a high school diploma reported having high cholesterol, 33.6 percent of Delaware adults with a high school diploma reported having high cholesterol, 32.4 percent of Delaware adults with some post high school education reported having high cholesterol, and 31.2 percent of Delaware adults with a college degree reported having high cholesterol.
There also were no statistically significant differences in the prevalence of diagnosed high cholesterol among Delaware adults with different annual household incomes. And there were no differences in prevalence of high cholesterol observed between Delaware adults who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) and heterosexual gender-conforming Delaware adults.
The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommends adults age 20 and older should have their cholesterol checked every 5 years. Of Delaware adults aged 20 years and older, 94.0 percent reported having their blood cholesterol level tested within the last five years.
For those with borderline high or high cholesterol, recommendations on how often a cholesterol test is required should be made by a health care professional.
For those with coronary heart disease, a cholesterol test is recommended annually. Of Delaware adults with coronary heart disease, 97.5 percent reported having their cholesterol checked within the last five years.
There are several risk factors for high cholesterol, including existing health conditions, behavioral risks, and family history or genetics.
Diabetes is known to be associated with high cholesterol. Of Delaware adults who have diabetes, 63.5 percent also have high cholesterol. When adjusted for other demographic characteristics and risk factors, Delaware adults with diabetes were still more likely to have high cholesterol than adults without diabetes.
Behavioral risk factors include poor diet, physical inactivity, obesity, smoking, and excessive drinking.
Prevalence of high cholesterol among adults who are physically inactive is 39.5 percent; and the prevalence among obese adults is 43 percent. Adults who smoke cigarettes have a high cholesterol prevalence of 35.8 percent. Those who report chronic heavy alcohol use have a high cholesterol prevalence of 37.3 percent. The highest prevalence (44.1 percent) is among adults with disabilities. The underlying causes of those disabilities may be conditions which increase the risk for high cholesterol.
Family history and genetics are likely to play a role in whether an individual develops high cholesterol. For example, the risk of high cholesterol can increase when someone who has a family history of hypertension also engages in other behavioral risk factors, such as physical inactivity.
Complications: High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. Some of the conditions to which high cholesterol can contribute include heart attack, angina or chest pain, stroke, and aortic aneurysm.
Take medicines as prescribed by your doctor. There are medications which can help lower or control high cholesterol, decreasing your risk of complications. If a medication is prescribed to you, take it as instructed. If your risk factors change (for example, if you start an exercise program or change your diet), tell your doctor or health care team because your medication may need to be adjusted.
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