MONDAY, July 19, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Only about half of young adults in the United States undergo cholesterol screening, even though up to one-quarter of them have elevated levels of "bad" cholesterol, a new study has found.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers analyzed data from nearly 2,600 young adults (men aged 20 to 35, women aged 20 to 45) who took part in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol were present in 7 percent of the participants with no other heart disease risk factors, 12 percent of those with one other risk factor, and 26 percent of those with two or more other risk factors, the researchers found. However, the cholesterol screening rate for young adults is under 50 percent, they noted.
A high level of LDL cholesterol is a common risk factor for coronary heart disease, but it can be managed with lifestyle changes or treated with medication. Other risk factors include high blood pressure, smoking, family history and obesity, the study authors noted.
"What's surprising and, quite frankly, rather concerning, is that we are doing such a poor job of identifying young adults in America who have elevated LDL cholesterol," study lead author Dr. Elena Kuklina, a nutritional epidemiologist with the CDC Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, said in an agency news release.
"Young men and women experience a high burden of risk factors for heart disease, the nation's leading cause of mortality," she added.
The study findings, published in the July/August issue of the journal Annals of Family Medicine, highlight the need to improve screening for, and management of, high LDL cholesterol among young adults, according to the researchers.
The American Heart Association has more about cholesterol.