Of that group, 38 million are people with health conditions that put them at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
These findings, by Stephen D. Persell and co-researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, are reported in the February issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Persell, who led the study, is assistant professor of medicine at the Feinberg School.
The study, which compared 2001 NIH cholesterol level targets with revised, more stringent, optimal targets issued in 2004, found that 10 million more adults had LDL-C ("bad cholesterol") levels above the new targets.
The new guidelines recommend that physicians strive to get patients' LDL-C levels lower, particularly for those at moderately high and high risk for heart disease.
"Nationally, we are far from achieving the 2001 goals, and as new evidence leads the NIH to push optional goals down further, the gap between what we believe to be ideal goals and what has been achieved gets even wider," Persell said.
Too much LDL-C can build up on the inner lining of arteries that feed the brain and heart, and in conjunction with other substances form plaques (deposits) that can clog vessels and cause a stroke or heart attack.
In combination with cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, tobacco smoking and/or family history of heart disease, high levels of LDL-C put individuals at increased risk for heart disease.
The goal for high-risk (heart disease or diabetes) patients is an LDL-C level was less than 100. However, a level of 70, rather than 100, is suggested in updated recommendations for those who are at very high risk for cardiovascular disease.