For the study, researchers measured participants' blood pressure, height, weight and cholesterol and asked them about family history of heart attack, current smoking, and current prescription drugs. Each participant's 10-year risk of developing disease of the coronary arteries was calculated, and they were classified as being low risk, moderate risk or high risk.
"We found that cholesterol disorders were common in this population that is free of known cardiovascular disease," said Goff. "And we found that cholesterol treatment and control is far from optimal. The high-risk group had the lowest level of control and there was evidence of gender and ethnic disparities in both treatment and control."
Among participants with cholesterol disorders, men were 20 percent less likely than women to be treated. Blacks and Hispanics were less likely (15 percent and 20 percent, respectively) than whites to be treated. The researchers believe that the gender and ethnic disparities may be related both to access to care and the tendency to seek health care.
Women are more likely than men to have health insurance and are reported to seek health care services more often than men, the researchers said. Blacks and Hispanics also have lower health insurance coverage rates and poorer access to care.
"Our study showed that more research and quality improvement programs are needed to optimize management of cholesterol disorders," Goff said.