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Triglyceride Levels Continue to Rise in the United States Despite Increased Use of Cholesterol-Lowering Medications
Date:11/11/2008

INDIANAPOLIS, Nov. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- HealthCore, WellPoint's health outcomes research subsidiary, today presented the findings of a study [Abstract No: 3703], in collaboration with the National Lipid Association, that examined trends in major lipid types among American adults. The study findings, presented during the American Heart Association's (AHA) Scientific Session in New Orleans, suggest that regardless of gains made by medications to control some lipids, triglycerides -- much like obesity and diabetes -- are on the rise.

"We're winning the LDL battle but we need to do the same with triglycerides to have a chance of defeating heart disease," said Mark J. Cziraky, lead investigator of the study and HealthCore president of research, development and operations.

Triglyceride levels have risen 12 percent while low density lipoprotein levels (LDL) have decreased by 15 mg/dL over the past three decades, according to the study.

High levels of triglycerides have been linked to the inflammation of the artery walls, increasing one's risk of heart disease and stroke. As the rate of abnormal triglycerides has increased, other factors such as obesity and diabetes have also increased. Through this study, HealthCore sought to understand the association between lipid trends and the increased use of cholesterol-lowering medications among U.S. adults.

"While it has been shown that the introduction of cholesterol-lowering medications have had a positive impact on total cholesterol and LDL levels in recent years, increases in triglycerides are troubling and must be explored," said Cziraky. "Our research set out to investigate changes in lipid levels over time and explore the potential impact of medication on various lipids in an effort to better understand and prevent heart disease in this country."

HealthCore's collaborative effort with the NLA analyzed adults aged 20 to 74 years who took the blood lipid examination as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), a multiyear cross-sectional survey conducted from 1976 to the present. The study measured lipid types for the sample of adults in the morning after they had fasted for 8.5 to 23 hours.

Researchers found that total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol have continually decreased among U.S. adults. The increased use of cholesterol-lowering medication over the past 30 years is likely a major contributor to these positive trends. With available data, the average for LDL cholesterol among adults with at least one prescribed cholesterol-lowering medication decreased from 148.09 mg/dL between 1988-1994 to 121.26 mg/dL between 1999-2004.

During the same period, the study notes an increase in triglyceride averages from 1988-1994 and 1999-2006. The average triglycerides showed a continued increase in older adults; however, for other age groups, the averages decreased from 1976-1980 and 1988-1994 and then greatly increased from 1988-1994 and 1999-2006. Obesity and diabetes rates also increased during this period of time. The data suggest that an increase in use of cholesterol-lowering medications may help lower LDL, but triglycerides remain unaffected by these drugs. Interestingly, high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels also improved among U.S. adults over the last 30 years, although it is not clear what may be affecting this change.

"This analysis underscores the need for renewed efforts that focus on identifying and treating multiple lipid types -- especially triglycerides -- to better manage risk for heart disease," said Jerome D. Cohen, M.D. Professor Emeritus, St. Louis University. "It is our hope that additional research into lipid levels and associated medication use be conducted so that heart disease and stroke risk can be lowered."

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States. Abnormal cholesterol levels have been considered a major risk factor for the development of heart related issues. Diagnosis of these abnormal cholesterol levels is commonly determined by blood levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides, high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

HealthCore, a subsidiary of WellPoint, is a health outcomes and clinical research organization that has served the needs of health plans, government agencies, physician practices and pharmaceutical manufacturers since 1996. HealthCore focuses on providing evidence of the real-world safety and effectiveness of therapeutics; offering insight to best utilize this evidence; and communicating these findings to health care decision-makers. The company's work is increasingly used to support evidence-based medicine, process improvement and patient-reported outcomes.

This study was conducted by the National Lipid Association Consumer Affairs Committee, with the support of an independent grant from Abbott Laboratories.

About WellPoint, Inc.

WellPoint, Inc. is the largest publicly traded commercial health benefits company in terms of membership in the United States. WellPoint, Inc. is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and serves its members as the Blue Cross licensee for California; the Blue Cross and Blue Shield licensee for Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri (excluding 30 counties in the Kansas City area), Nevada, New Hampshire, New York (as Blue Cross Blue Shield in 10 New York City metropolitan counties and as Blue Cross, Blue Shield or Blue Cross Blue Shield in selected upstate counties only), Ohio, Virginia (excluding the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.), Wisconsin; and through UniCare. Additional information about WellPoint is available at http://www.wellpoint.com .

About the National Lipid Association

The National Lipid Association (NLA) is a multidisciplinary non-profit membership association that serves the community of healthcare professionals who manage patients with lipid disorders and cardiovascular disease. The NLA's public health mission is to help reduce deaths related to high cholesterol. To help consumers better understand and manage lipids, the NLA launched the http://www.learnyourlipids.com Web site.


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SOURCE WellPoint, Inc.
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