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J Gen Intern Med. 2007 May;22(5):606-13. Epub 2007 Mar 17.

Awareness, accuracy, and predictive validity of self-reported cholesterol in women.

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Division of Preventive Medicine, Boston, MA 02215, USA.



Although current guidelines emphasize the importance of cholesterol knowledge, little is known about accuracy of this knowledge, factors affecting accuracy, and the relationship of self-reported cholesterol with cardiovascular disease (CVD).


The 39,876 female health professionals with no prior CVD in the Women's Health Study were asked to provide self-reported and measured levels of total and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Demographic and cardiovascular risk factors were considered as determinants of awareness and accuracy. Accuracy was evaluated by the difference between reported and measured cholesterol. In addition, we examined the relationship of self-reported cholesterol with incident CVD over 10 years.


Compared with women who were unaware of their cholesterol levels, aware women (84%) had higher levels of income, education, and exercise and were more likely to be married, normal in weight, treated for hypertension and hypercholesterolemia, nonsmokers, moderate drinkers, and users of hormone therapy. Women underestimated their total cholesterol by 9.7 mg/dL (95% CI: 9.2-10.2); covariates explained little of this difference (R (2) < .01). Higher levels of self-reported cholesterol were strongly associated with increased risk of CVD, which occurred in 741 women (hazard ratio 1.23/40 mg/dL cholesterol, 95% CI: 1.15-1.33). Women with elevated cholesterol who were unaware of their level had particularly increased risk (HR=1.88, P <. 001) relative to aware women with normal measured cholesterol.


Women with obesity, smoking, untreated hypertension, or sedentary lifestyle have decreased awareness of their cholesterol levels. Self-reported cholesterol underestimates measured values, but is strongly related to CVD. Lack of awareness of elevated cholesterol is associated with increased risk of CVD.

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