ATLANTA, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- While the number of people with high cholesterol has gone down over the last decade, new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests many people who could benefit from cholesterol-lowering drugs are not taking them.
The CDC said fewer than half of people with high cholesterol and who either have heart disease or are at risk for it are being prescribed drugs cholesterol-lowering drugs they could benefit from, according to the agency's latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association recommend the drugs for people with heart disease, people with high cholesterol, people between the ages of 40 and 75 with diabetes and high cholesterol and those with diabetes, high cholesterol and who are at risk for heart disease.
Researchers analyzed data collected between 2005 and 2012 as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, finding that 36.7 percent of adults in the United States -- about 78.1 million people over age 21 -- are eligible for the drugs.
Of people who should be treated with the drugs, 55.5 percent were on cholesterol-lowering drugs, 46.6 percent reported making lifestyle changes, 37.1 percent were making lifestyle modifications and taking medication, and 35.5 percent reported doing neither.
"Nearly 800,000 people die in the U.S. each year from cardiovascular diseases -- that's 1 in every 3 deaths -- and high cholesterol continues to be a major risk factor," Dr. Carla Mercado, a scientist in the CDC's Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, said in a press release.
"This study reveals opportunities to reduce existing disparities through targeted patient education and cholesterol management programs," she said.