Cholesterol Too High in Many Women

Among High-Risk Patients, Men May Be More Likely Than Women to Have Optimal Cholesterol Levels

By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

May 15, 2007 -- Women may need to put cholesterol on their list of things to discuss with their doctor, a new study suggests.

The study, published online in Women's Health Issues, shows that among high-risk patients, optimal levels of LDL "bad" cholesterol may be less common among men than women.

High levels of cholesterol -- especially LDL cholesterol -- can make heart disease and heart attacks more likely. A simple blood test can check your cholesterol levels. Diet, exercise, and medications can help lower high cholesterol.

The new study focuses on diabetes patients and survivors of recent heart "events," defined as a heart attack, heart bypass operation, or angioplasty (procedure to reopen blocked coronary arteries, which supply blood to heart muscle).

The researchers included Sarah Hudson Scholle, DrPH, MPH, of the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), a nonprofit group that tracks health care quality.

They reviewed data from 46 commercial health plans and 148 Medicare health plans across the U.S. and found that men were more likely than women to have their cholesterol under control.

For instance, 44% of men with diabetes had their cholesterol under control, compared with 38% of women with diabetes.

Among patients who had recently survived a cardiac event, 52% to 56% of men had their cholesterol under control, compared with 43% to 47% of women.

Women and their doctors need to work together to close the gender gap in cholesterol control, note the researchers.

"This study highlights the importance of not just knowing your health, but also taking an active role in your care," Margaret O'Kane, NCQA president, says in a news release. "The data show that we've got our work cut out for us in terms of raising awareness among both physicians and patients."

SOURCES: Chou, A. Women's Health Issues, May 3, 2007; online edition. News release, American Heart Association.

© 2007 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.


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