Cardiovascular disease has been a leading public health challenge in the U.S. for decades. The connection between cardiovascular disease and cholesterol, especially LDL-C or "bad" cholesterol, is among the most widely observed and studied factors for disease in medical history.
However, a recent survey from the American Heart Association with the Harris Poll, among more than 3,000 U.S. adults, uncovered surprising findings about Americans who have already experienced at least one heart attack or stroke, and what they understand about the importance of LDL-C testing and treatment in helping prevent another potentially life-changing cardiovascular event. Among the 503 adults in the survey who have already experienced a heart attack or stroke:
- Nearly half (47%) don't know their LDL-C number
- About 1 in 3 (34%) believe high cholesterol poses no, or only small, increased risk for heart attack or stroke
- Only around half (49%) currently prioritize lowering their cholesterol in their overall health
Seeing a critical need to raise awareness about the connection between high LDL-C and risk of heart attack and stroke, Amgen is a national sponsor of the Lower Your LDL Cholesterol Now™ Initiative, being spearheaded by the American Heart Association to encourage patients to know their LDL-C level and to take action with their physicians to lower it to target goals.
"The American Heart Association's new initiative, sponsored nationally by Amgen, stems from a shared commitment to improving heart health and reducing the burden of cardiovascular disease," says Eduardo Sanchez, Chief Medical Officer for Prevention at American Heart Association. "By leveraging the expertise, resources, and determination of both organizations, we can amplify the impact and address the persistent health care issue of elevated LDL cholesterol effectively."
"The fact that nearly half of those who have had a heart attack or stroke don't know their LDL-C number shows a significant gap in awareness," says Jyothis George, Global & U.S. Therapeutic Area Head, Cardiometabolic, at Amgen. "We're excited to support the American Heart Association's efforts to educate patients—knowing what their bad cholesterol level is helps patients ask for the care they deserve."
For those who've suffered a heart attack or stroke, when it comes to LDL-C, lower is better
"LDL cholesterol, often referred to as 'bad' cholesterol, directly elevates the risk of heart attack and stroke," Sanchez says. "The survey revealed a remarkable 75% of people who have had a heart attack or stroke reported elevated LDL cholesterol levels. This finding underscores the urgency to address elevated cholesterol levels as a key component of heart health."
But in order to establish a treatment plan with the goal of lowering LDL-C to target levels in patients with cardiovascular disease, patients must first know what their number is through regular blood lipid testing.
"Basically, LDL-C is something that you should aggressively reduce, especially if you have risks for another cardiovascular event," says Narimon Honarpour, cardiologist and SVP of Global Development at Amgen.
Those who have experienced a heart attack or stroke have even greater risk from high LDL-C
A common misconception among people who have already had a heart attack or stroke is that they only need to focus on getting their LDL-C to the levels considered "normal" for the general population. But the reality is that having one cardiovascular event significantly increases the risk of having another.
"There are certain biological processes put into play after someone has a heart attack or stroke that makes them even more vulnerable to the bad effects of LDL-C," Honarpour says. "That's why when you look at the guidelines, the target levels of LDL-C for those who have had a heart attack or stroke are even lower and more aggressively treated than for the general population."
Don't wait—ask your doctor about a plan to lower LDL-C
Efforts like the American Heart Association's initiative can help turn the tide on cardiovascular disease by increasing awareness and education among both physicians and their patients.
"We're dedicated to equipping people who have had a heart attack or stroke, and the general public, with crucial knowledge about LDL cholesterol testing and management," Sanchez says. "Through this initiative, we aim to prioritize prevention as the cornerstone of heart health."
This multifaceted approach underscores the importance of being proactive, including regular testing and medication adherence, to mitigate cardiovascular risks.
"For physicians, they may only see the patient every six months, so they need to make sure the patient knows that LDL-C is bad, they need to tell them their number and their target and provide a treatment plan to reach that target," Honarpour explains. "And for patients, make sure you're proactive about talking with your doctor along the way."
Click here to learn more about heart health and managing LDL-C.