Study concludes that 74% of the Portuguese don’t know what cholesterol they have

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Three out of four respondents to a national study by the Portuguese Foundation of Cardiology (FPC), released today, do not know their cholesterol levels, ignorance that is accentuated in younger age groups and decreases with age.

The study “The Portuguese and Cholesterol 2023” conducted by GFK Metris for the FPC will be released today at the presentation of the foundation’s campaign “May, the month of the heart”, which aims to raise awareness among the population about the importance of protecting their hearts by controlling levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), one of the main risk factors for cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, and to make known the current state of cardiovascular disease in Portugal.

According to the study, which took place in April and involved 800 people aged 18 or over living on the continent, 88% of respondents aged between 18 and 24 do not know the value of their cholesterol, a figure that falls to 86% in ages between 25 and 44, to 66% between 45 and 64, rising to 69% in respondents aged 65 or over.

The vast majority (89%) know that cholesterol is a fat that circulates in people’s bodies, and 64% report that the normal value is less than 190 mg/dL.

Among the diseases caused by high cholesterol, 42% highlight the cerebrovascular accident (CVA), 25% the myocardial infarction and 18% cardiovascular diseases. As the main cause of myocardial infarction, 49% point to high cholesterol and 32% to hypertension.

A third of the respondents believe it’s false that some dietary supplements do better for cholesterol than the statins that doctors prescribe, and almost all of them reject the idea that “regular exercise has no advantages for people with high cholesterol” or that “thin people don’t have to worry about cholesterol. That’s a problem for fat people”.

Speaking to the Lusa news agency, the president of the FPC, Manuel Carrageta, said that the state of health of the Portuguese “worsened after the pandemic and cardiovascular diseases continue to be the leading cause of death in Portugal,” being responsible for about 30,000 deaths annually, almost a third of all deaths.

According to the FPC, about eight out of every 10 deaths from cardiovascular causes that occur before the age of 70 are preventable.

The Foundation stresses that, every 15 minutes, a person dies from cardiovascular disease in Portugal, a reality that must be reversed, alerting society to the urgency of considering cholesterol as a determining factor in cardiovascular risk, which, if controlled, can help reverse this situation.

“Myocardial infarction alone kills, on average, more than two people a day,” said the cardiologist, explaining that this disease is due “in large part” to risk factors, namely cholesterol.

According to Manuel Carrageta, there is still “a certain ignorance of its meaning, many myths, and a lot of controversy.

“High cholesterol doesn’t cause symptoms, and when symptoms do occur, it is in the form of cardiovascular events, such as myocardial infarction,” he warned, recalling an FPC study that shows that two thirds of the population have high cholesterol.

He also pointed out that another recent study found that more than 90% of patients with high and very high cardiovascular risk do not have their cholesterol at the recommended values, and about 20% of very high-risk patients take no medication at all.

Manuel Carrageta stressed the importance of statin treatment, which he assured are “safe and fundamental drugs” to reduce these diseases, contrary to the idea that “has been created in public opinion.

The FPC, Portugal AVC, and the Association of Support to Heart Failure Patients have come together to create the Invisible Nation Coalition, which aims to alert people to the need to look at the impact of cardiovascular diseases on the population and how to help prevent them, as well as to develop a program of actions focused on triggering a change of behavior in society,

The coalition was born out of its founders’ concern with “the current scenario of cardiovascular diseases in Portugal and the lack of measures and actions by health authorities to effectively reduce the negative impact they have in Portugal, from a medical, social, and economic perspective.

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