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News: Society affairs & governance

Think Again About Cholesterol

Tuesday 29 September 2015  
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European Atherosclerosis Society Urges Public To Think Again About Cholesterol on World Heart Day and Every Day

New multi-national survey results show major discrepancy between understanding significance of high cholesterol and taking action against this major risk factor for cardiovascular disease

Results reveal more than 90 percent of people surveyed are unaware of their cholesterol levels or never had their cholesterol levels tested[1]

Göteborg, Sweden – September 29, 2015 – The European Atherosclerosis Society (EAS) today announced results from a new multi-national survey that illustrates a significant gap between the general public’s understanding about high cholesterol and taking action to better monitor their own cholesterol. On World Heart Day, a day that aims to increase global awareness and prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD), the results from the Think Again About Cholesterol survey of more than 12,000 adults from 11 European countries and Japan highlight the need for additional educational efforts and resources to help people better understand how high cholesterol is a major risk factor for CVD. The survey was conducted online on behalf of EAS by Harris Poll, a leading global provider of information and analytics, and sponsored by Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Although 89 percent of adults surveyed agreed it is important to know whether or not they have high low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), an overwhelming 92 percent did not know their LDL-C levels or never had their cholesterol levels tested.[1] High levels of LDL-C, often called “bad cholesterol”, can lead to atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the artery walls), which in turn, can lead to heart attack or stroke.[2] It is recommended that adults with low CVD risk should have their cholesterol levels tested every five years.[3] For those taking medication to control their high cholesterol, most guidelines recommend an annual test once their target level is reached.[4]

The results further revealed that nearly half of those surveyed are worried about cancer (45 percent), compared to just over one in four who are worried about heart disease (27 percent).[1] However, according to the World Health Organization, Europe has the greatest prevalence per capita of high cholesterol in the world, and CVD causes almost half of all deaths across the continent.[5,6] Total cholesterol, smoking and high blood pressure are considered among the most important modifiable risk factors for CVD;[7] on the other hand, when asked about which factors most impact heart health, more survey respondents indicated several other issues ahead of high cholesterol, including being overweight, stress and high blood pressure.[1]

“The only way to reverse the staggering rates of CVD-related deaths in Europe is to continue to increase awareness of key risk factors such as high LDL-C, along with smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes and to encourage people to better monitor and manage all of their risk factors,” said Prof. Alberico L. Catapano, President EAS, Department of Pharmacological and Biomolecular Sciences, University of Milan. “Our goal is that these survey results will start an important dialogue on the broader implications of high LDL-C and encourage everyone to speak with their doctor and have their cholesterol levels checked, if they haven’t already, or have them checked regularly. It’s clear that most people agree with the importance of knowing their cholesterol levels, but with 92 percent of people unaware of their levels, it is critically important to convert this into action.”

Key survey findings: Need to translate knowledge into action[1]

Education beyond the basics is critical

  • Nearly two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents do not know LDL-C is the “bad” type of cholesterol and more than half (54 percent) do not know having low levels of LDL-C is good for long term health.
  • However, more than four in five (84 percent) agree that high LDL-C is something that everyone should be concerned about.
  • A vast majority of respondents (89 percent) understand the importance of knowing whether they have high LDL-C levels and believe that people should be doing more to manage their LDL-C levels (88 percent).

Education must translate to action – with a simple first step – get levels checked

  • At the same time, more than nine in ten respondents (92 percent) indicated they do not know their LDL-C levels or have never had them checked, although the majority believe it is important that people know whether or not they have high LDL-C (89 percent).
  • More than half of those surveyed feel there is a lack of clear information available on how people should manage their LDL-C (57 percent).
  • Adults over 40 should aim to keep their LDL-C under 2.5-3.0 mmol/L;[3] however, 59 percent were unsure of the appropriate target levels.

“Despite efforts to educate people on the importance of diet and exercise along with recent treatment advances, more progress is still needed. While it’s a positive step for Europeans to know the significance of high LDL-C, the survey results show there is a lack of empowerment for people to do anything about it,” said Prof. Olov Wiklund, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden. “On World Heart Day 2015 and every day, we are committed to encouraging people to take better control of their CVD risk factors by starting first with getting their cholesterol levels tested and understanding if their levels put them at risk for CVD.”

About the Think Again About Cholesterol Survey

Think Again About Cholesterol is a multi-national survey conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of EAS and sponsored by Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. about the general public’s understanding of cholesterol. A total of 12,142 adults, age 25 and over, were surveyed between 25 August and 9 September 2015 in the following countries: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

About the EAS

The European Atherosclerosis Society (EAS) was founded in 1964 with the aim of “advancing and exchanging knowledge concerning the causes, natural history, treatment and prevention of atherosclerotic disease”. For more than 50 years the Society’s expertise has been used to teach clinicians how to manage lipid disorders and how to prevent atherosclerosis. For more information visit


  1. Think Again About Cholesterol Survey. Sponsored by Sanofi and Regeneron (2015).
  2. World Heart Federation. Different heart diseases. Available from Last accessed 14 September 2015.
  3. Perk J, De backer G, Gohlke H, et al. European Guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice (version 2012). The Fifth Joint Task Force of the European Society of Cardiology and Other Societies on Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Clinical Practice (constituted by representatives of nine societies and by invited experts). Eur Heart J. 2012;33(13):1635-701.
  4. Reiner Z, et al.. ESC/EAS Guidelines for the management of dyslipidaemias: The Task Force for the management of dyslipidaemias of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and the European Atherosclerosis Society (EAS). Eur Heart J 2011;32:1769–1818.
  5. World Health Organization, Global Health Observatory (GHO). Raised cholesterol. Situation and trends. Available from Last accessed 14 September 2015.
  6. European Heart Network. European Cardiovascular Disease Statistics 2012. Available from Last accessed 29 June 2015.
  7. World Heart Federation. Cardiovascular disease risk factors. Available from Last accessed 16 September 2015.

29 September 2015

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