Public awareness and understanding of risk factors for atherosclerotic vascular disease are essential for successful primary and secondary prevention. The American Heart Association is committed to reducing cardiovascular disease.
A professional market survey company conducted a structured national telephone survey of English-speaking adults 40 years and older on behalf of the American Heart Association. Regional and sex quotas were imposed on the sample, and responses were weighted to match the 1999 census projections for region of the country, age, sex, and race.
Interviews were completed with 1163 adults 40 years and older. A national probability sample of 1114 was created. Of the final sample, 28.5% were 65 years or older, 56.1% were women, and 86.5% were white. Although 91.2% of respondents stated that it was "important to them personally to have a healthy cholesterol level" (77.6% extremely or very important), 51% did not know their own level. Only 40.2% were aware of national guidelines for cholesterol management, and 53.1% either did not know or overestimated the correct desirable total cholesterol level for a healthy adult. When asked what sources of information they rely on the most, 66.8% identified physicians, while only 3.7% rely primarily on the Internet.
Public understanding of cholesterol management is suboptimal. Physicians have a unique opportunity, on the basis of public attitudes and access, to improve cholesterol education.