Screening and treating adults for lipid disorders

Michael P. Pignone, Christopher J. Phillips, David Atkins, Steven M. Teutsch, Cynthia D. Mulrow, Kathleen N. Lohr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Context: Screening and treatment of lipid disorders in people at high risk for future coronary heart disease (CHD) events has gained wide acceptance, especially for patients with known CHD, but the proper role in people with low to medium risk is controversial. Objective: To examine the evidence about the benefits and harms of screening and treatment of lipid disorders in adults without known cardiovascular disease for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Data We identified English-language articles on drug therapy, diet and exercise therapy, and Sources: screening for lipid disorders from comprehensive searches of the MEDLINE database from 1994 through July 1999. We used published systematic reviews, hand searching of relevant articles, the second Guide to Clinical Preventive Services, and extensive peer review to identify important older articles and to ensure completeness. Data There is strong, direct evidence that drug therapy reduces CHD events, CHD mortality, Synthesis: and possibly total mortality in middle-aged men (35 to 65 years) with abnormal lipids and a potential risk of CHD events greater than 1% to 2% per year. Indirect evidence suggests that drug therapy is also effective in other adults with similar levels of risk. The evidence is insufficient about benefits and harms of treating men younger than 35 years and women younger than 45 years who have abnormal lipids but no other risk factors for heart disease and low risk for CHD events (less than 1% per year). Trials of diet therapy for primary prevention have led to long-term reductions in cholesterol of 3% to 6% but have not demonstrated a reduction in CHD events overall. Exercise programs that maintain or reduce body weight can produce short-term reductions in total cholesterol of 3% to 6%, but longer-term results in unselected populations have found smaller or no effect. To identify accurately people with abnormal lipids, at least two measurements of total cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol are required. The role of measuring triglycerides and the optimal screening interval are unclear from the available evidence. Conclusions: On the basis of the effectiveness of treatment, the availability of accurate and reliable tests, and the likelihood of identifying people with abnormal lipids and increased CHD risk, screening appears to be effective in middle-aged and older adults and in young adults with additional cardiovascular risk factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-89
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine
Issue number3 SUPPL.
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cholesterol
  • Coronary disease
  • Drug therapy
  • Evidence-based medicine
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Lipids
  • Mass screening
  • Methods
  • Mortality
  • Preventive health services

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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