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Am J Med. 1997 Feb 17;102(2A):31-6.

Adults aged 20 and older should have their cholesterol measured.

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National Cholesterol Education Program, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-2480, USA.


The guidelines of the National Cholesterol Education Program recommend that adults > or = 20 years of age should have their total and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol measured. This recommendation, which has been endorsed by representatives of > 40 medical and health organizations, is based on a large and diverse body of scientific evidence derived from animal, pathologic, genetic, biochemical, metabolic, and epidemiologic studies and clinical trials. Elevated cholesterol levels raise the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) in men and women and in younger and older adults. Recent clinical trials have confirmed that cholesterol lowering reduces CHD morbidity and mortality and total mortality, without an increase in noncardiovascular mortality, in patients with and without CHD. Measuring cholesterol levels in adults > or = 20 years of age is necessary to provide an accurate assessment of CHD risk to an individual; to identify individuals who should lower their cholesterol levels, using diet and lifestyle changes as the primary treatment; and to reinforce population recommendations. Atherosclerosis begins early in life, and cholesterol levels in young adults predict CHD risk 30-40 years later. Cholesterol measurement can be used to motivate lifestyle changes that will reduce the long-term risk for CHD. Waiting until mid-life to find an elevated cholesterol loses a significant portion of the benefit. Cholesterol is a CHD risk factor in women and older adults, and recent trials show significant CHD risk reduction in these groups. While drug treatment is properly directed to patients with high CHD risk, in whom drugs are cost-effective, cholesterol measurement and lifestyle-based cholesterol lowering are necessary on a broader scale to reduce long-term CHD risk in adults aged > or = 20 years.

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