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American adults' cholesterol levels improve

October 15, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
We all know we need to lower our bad cholesterol and raise our good numbers. High cholesterol is a risk factor for coronary heart disease. So are Americans doing a good job? It appears many of us are making favorable progress.

Americans can take heart. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that as a nation, we're getting our cholesterol under control.

Researchers examined cholesterol trends in adults over the last 22 years.

"There was progress both for men and for women and for all race ethnicity groups," said Margaret D. Carroll, one of the CDC study's authors. "Total cholesterol declined in all adults, in men and in women."

Average total cholesterol levels decreased from 206 in the first study period to 196 in the most recent study period.

"We found that the bad cholesterol also declined and that the good cholesterol increased," said Carroll.

LDL levels declined from 129 to 116 and HDL levels increased from more than 50 to just over 52.

"The increase in the good cholesterol is probably due in part to decreasing smoking rates," said Carroll. "The decrease in the bad cholesterol is due in part to the decrease in the intake of trans-fatty acids, and also to the increase in cholesterol lowering medications."

While researchers also find more people are taking cholesterol-lowering medications, those who did not also saw favorable changes in their cholesterol numbers.

And good news on triglycerides: Those levels also appeared to drop during the third reporting period. Researchers say they'd like to study how trans-fatty acids, cholesterol-lowering medications and healthy lifestyle together have an effect on cholesterol numbers.