Global Health Observatory (GHO)

Raised cholesterol

Situation and trends

Raised cholesterol increases the risks of heart disease and stroke. Globally, a third of ischaemic heart disease is attributable to high cholesterol. Overall, raised cholesterol is estimated to cause 2.6 million deaths (4.5% of total) and 29.7 million disability adjusted life years (DALYS), or 2.0% of total DALYS. Raised total cholesterol is a major cause of disease burden in both the developed and developing world as a risk factor for Ischemic heart disease and stroke. A 10% reduction in serum cholesterol in men aged 40 has been reported to result in a 50% reduction in heart disease within 5 years; the same serum cholesterol reduction for men aged 70 years can result in an average 20% reduction in heart disease occurrence in the next 5 years. In Ireland, a 30% reduction in the heart disease death rate has been attributed to 4.6% reduction of the population mean for total cholesterol. In Finland, 50% of the decline in IHD mortality has been explained by the reduction of population blood cholesterol level.

In 2008 the global prevalence of raised total cholesterol among adults (≥ 5.0 mmol/l) was 39% (37% for males and 40% for females). Globally, mean total cholesterol changed little between 1980 and 2008, falling by less than 0.1 mmol/L per decade in men and women.

The prevalence of elevated total cholesterol was highest in the WHO Region of Europe (54% for both sexes), followed by the WHO Region of the Americas (48% for both sexes). The WHO African Region and the WHO South East Asian Region showed the lowest percentages (22.6% for AFR and 29.0% for SEAR).

The prevalence of raised total cholesterol increased noticeably according to the income level of the country. In low income countries around a quarter of adults had raised total cholesterol, in lower middle income countries this rose to around a third of the population for both sexes. In high-income countries, over 50% of adults had raised total cholesterol; more than double the level of the low-income countries.

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