It's not often that we get some good news about the health of American adults. But that's exactly the message of a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The study by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control found that average total cholesterol fell from 206 in 1988-94 to 196 in 2007-10.
That total cholesterol figure includes low-density lipoproteins or LDL – the so-called bad cholesterol that can cause plaques to build up in your arteries. The plaques can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
The American Heart Association says that total cholesterol should be less than 200.
Although the researchers don't give a reason for the decline, the drop matches the increasing use of statins. Between 1988 and 2010, there was a 35 percent rise in the number of men and women over 50 taking statins. By 2010, 15.5 percent of U.S. adults were taking these cholesterol-lowering medications.
If you're over 50 or at risk of heart disease for other reasons, you should start by knowing your total cholesterol profile. That includes LDL, high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and triglycerides. HDL is the "good" cholesterol that is believed to scoop up the bad cholesterol. Triglycerides are fatty acids.
A good source of more information on cholesterol is the National Institutes of Health.