Good news, bad news. A recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control finds that high cholesterol is on the decline in the U.S., but it also finds that far too many people with high cholesterol are not taking appropriate medication. 

Who's eligible for such medication? According to the American College of Cardiology, 78 million Americans (36.7 percent of the population) fall into one of the following categories that justifies LDL-lowering medication: 

  • People with heart disease, a prior heart attack or some types of stroke, or angina.
  • People with LDL cholesterol levels of 190 mg/dL or more.
  • People ages 40 to 75 with diabetes and LDL cholesterol levels of 70-189 mg/dL.
  • People ages 40-75 with LDL cholesterol levels of 70-189 mg/dL and an estimated 10-year risk of heart disease of 7.5 percent or more.

But only 55.5 percent of that population reported taking drugs to lower their LDL level. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' goal is to get 65 percent of Americans to manage high LDL levels by 2017. 

"Nearly 800,000 people die in the U.S. each year from cardiovascular diseases — that's one in every three deaths — and high cholesterol continues to be a major risk factor," said Carla Mercado, a scientist in the division for heart disease and stroke prevention at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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