Risk factor? No. Or at least not only. It would be too easy and simplistic. High cholesterol, like hypertension, is a real causal element for the onset of ischemic diseases such as heart attack. For this reason it is necessary to check the LDL cholesterol values, the bad one. You need to stay below 115 milligrams per deciliter if you are in good health, below 70 if you are at high risk and below 55 if you are at very high risk. But from theory to practice, unfortunately the situation changes. Because the Italians still underestimate this enemy of the heart and arteries.
LDL cholesterol, this unknown
To say it is a research conducted by SWG on a sample of over 1200 adults made known on the occasion of the World Heart Day of 29 November. What emerges? Just under one in two countrymen underestimate the risks associated with high cholesterol levels, about one in three believe that the risk associated with hypercholesterolemia should concern only those who have already suffered from heart. But above all, many do not know the enemy: only 43% of the sample knows that LDL cholesterol is harmful to our health. In short, confusion reigns.
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by Federico Mereta
The risk is underestimated
According to the results of the study, 20% do not even know the risks deriving from high cholesterol levels, while for 42% the control of cholesterol level depends solely on diet and physical activity. In short, it is hard to consider hypercholesterolemia a real pathology.
According to Emanuela Folcoof the Italian Foundation for the Heart, despite the fact that in Italy cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death for both men (31.7%) and women (37.7%) and that the prevalence of people living with cardiovascular disability is equal to 4.4 per thousand, “the general perception is that cardiovascular diseases do not occupy the first places among the diseases to be feared, given in contrast to what we see in everyday life”.
More attention to prevention
Returning to the survey, we can really see how Italians know the importance of prevention but then, in practice, only rarely think about protecting their health. Through prevention, for 92% of the interviewees, cardiovascular problems can be avoided, but only for 17% of the sample it is advisable to periodically carry out check-ups. And only 31% of participants underwent a cardiovascular risk assessment in the past 12 months.
Tight checks for those who have already had strokes or heart attacks
However, more than others, patients with high cardiovascular risk are unable to escape regular checks and represent, according to international guidelines, the real and urgent priority in the context of preventive interventions. “Prevention becomes crucial when it comes to patients with high cardiovascular risk – he comments Ciro Indolfi, president of the Italian Society of Cardiology (Sic). Those who have been affected by a cardiovascular event, in fact, run a high risk of experiencing a new heart attack or stroke in the following years. Events that could be significantly reduced – as the recent guidelines of the European Society of Cardiology recall – if secondary prevention strategies were increasingly implemented. The lowering of LDL cholesterol thresholds for access to the new PCSK9 anti-cholesterol drugs, recently published in the Official Gazette, is precisely in the direction of an early and rapid treatment. ”
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The numbers to remember
In short: science clearly states that LDL cholesterol is the cause of cardiovascular diseases. And it shouldn’t be considered just a risk factor. Its reduction – therefore – represents one of the main objectives for limiting cardiovascular events such as myocardial infarction and counteracting mortality. “The guidelines of the European Society of Cardiology suggest LDL cholesterol levels lower than 55 milligrams per deciliter in secondary prevention and, in some patients particularly at risk, LDL-cholesterol levels even lower and lower than 40 – Indolfi said – these Such ambitious goals can now be achieved thanks to the PCSK9 protein inhibitors, capable of reducing the LDL cholesterol level by 60%, demonstrating a clear clinical benefit in patients with high cardiovascular risk “. In short: the patient at high cardiovascular risk who has undergone one or more cardiovascular events is a chronic patient who must be treated as such. With tailor-made therapies.
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