Half of the Latinos living in the United States who had high cholesterol were unaware that they had the condition, and fewer than one-third who knew about it were being treated, according to a large epidemiologic study reported online June 24 in Journal of the American Heart Association.

To examine cholesterol awareness among Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Central Americans, Dominicans, and South Americans residing in the United States, researchers analyzed data from the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos, a study of Latino adults assessed during a 3-year period at four medical centers affiliated with San Diego State University, Northwestern University, Chicago, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, and the University of Miami. They focused on 9,835 female and 6,580 male participants. High cholesterol was extremely common, affecting 45% of them, said Dr. Carlos J. Rodriguez of the department of medicine and public health sciences, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C., and his associates.

A total of 49% of the adults who had high cholesterol were not aware that they had it. Only 30% were receiving treatment, and hypercholesterolemia was adequately controlled in only two-thirds of those who were treated, the investigators said (J. Am. Heart Assoc. 2015 June 24 [doi:10.1161/JAHA.115.001867]).

This lack of cholesterol awareness and treatment “bodes poorly for the public health of this large and growing segment of the U.S. population.” Public health programs to raise awareness, increase treatment rates, and ultimately control hypercholesterolemia among Latinos would not only improve health care disparities but would also significantly reduce the overall burden of heart disease in this country, the investigators noted.

This study was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Dr. Rodriguez reported receiving support from Alnylam, Amgen, and the American Heart Association.