Most Americans Don’t Know an Important Health Number that Could Be Putting Them at Risk for Gout
New Research from Gout & Uric Acid Education Society Confirms Low Awareness of the Target Uric Acid Level and Subsequent Lack of Action to Prevent Gout and Protect Overall Health
PR Newswire, PITTSBURGH, Sept. 8, 2015
Elevated uric acid in the bloodstream is the root cause of gout – the most common form of inflammatory arthritis today. But as gout continues to affect a growing number of Americans, new researchi from the Gout & Uric Acid Education Society (GUAES) reveals that very few adults understand the importance of regular uric acid testing, let alone the recommended levels for preventing gout and other health issues.
According to the survey, more than half of Americans (53%) do not know what uric acid is – and just four out of 10, including those who have gout, know that an elevated uric acid level contributes to an increased risk for gout and gout flares. Additionally, only half of gout sufferers know that it is important to monitor uric acid levels regularly in order to prevent future flares.
Few Americans also know that the target serum uric acid level when treating patients with gout is less than 6 mg/dL. While more than eight out of 10 Americans overall say they do not know this target, an even more alarming six out of 10 people, who have already been diagnosed with gout, do not know this number.
“This lack of awareness is ultimately translating to a large portion of gout sufferers and at-risk Americans not taking the appropriate steps to prevent gout and related health issues,” said N. Lawrence Edwards, M.D., rheumatologist and GUAES chairman. “For a person who has gout, or who is a likely candidate, it is recommended that uric acid levels be checked every six months. For those who have levels above 6 mg/dL, uric acid-lowering medications and other lifestyle changes may be recommended to lower this number.”
Unfortunately, just 10% of Americans overall – and 38% of people who have gout – say they have had their uric acid checked within the past six months. One in three people with gout say it’s been more than a year since they’ve had their levels checked – and two-thirds of Americans overall say they never had their levels checked, or aren’t sure if they did.New @GoutEducation research finds 84% of Americans don’t know the target uric acid level #GoForSix Tweet
Additionally, few Americans are aware of the steps that should be taken once a gout diagnosis is made. Just half of the general population and gout sufferers believe it’s important to take daily uric-acid lowering medications as prescribed – with four out of 10 people with gout incorrectly believing that it’s okay to stop taking medications in the absence of a flare. Fewer than half also understand the value of other steps, such as maintaining a healthy body weight, staying hydrated and reducing consumption of certain food triggers.
Misperceptions about Gout and Risk Factors
Beyond the connection between gout and elevated uric acid levels, the majority of Americans have many misconceptions about the disease overall. In fact, one in five Americans admitted that they do not know what gout is. While 66% of the general population knows that gout is a painful condition, only 37% believe it is a form of arthritis and 44% know it’s a chronic, life-long disease.
“Gout can be an extremely painful disease – with most people ranking their level of pain as a 9 or 10 on a standard pain scale,” added Dr. Edwards. “And while gout can be well managed with the right treatment options – even to a point where flares do not occur – it is a chronic disease that must be managed properly throughout life.”
Few Americans also understand what factors can contribute to an increased risk for gout or gout flares, with half not knowing that family history can play a role in developing gout, and fewer than half understanding the role that certain food triggers – including foods high in purines and high-fructose corn syrup – can play in triggering flares.
Low Awareness of Other Healthy Benchmarks
While just 16% of Americans know the target for lowering uric acid, the GUAES survey found that few Americans understand other important benchmark numbers – despite significant attention to health in online and traditional media. Approximately six out of 10 Americans know the target blood pressure number, but awareness falls off sharply after that. Less than four out of 10 know target levels for cholesterol and heart rate, and less than one-third know the target blood sugar level. More than one in four surveyed admitted to not knowing any of these target health numbers.
“This is unfortunate, since many Americans are also at risk for other serious health issues, including heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes,” said Dr. Edwards. “All of these have also been associated with an increased risk for gout – making ongoing monitoring critical for those who are at risk.”
“Go for 6” Campaign Raises Awareness
To raise awareness about the need for timely and ongoing treatment for gout – including regular monitoring of uric acid levels – GUAES recently introduced a new “Go for 6” campaign. The campaign urges those who have or who are at risk for gout to get their uric acid levels checked every six months, and to work with their doctor to determine a treatment plan for controlling gout and keeping levels to a recommended 6 mg/dL or below. Through the campaign, GUAES offers a number of education resources for the general public and medical professionals. All materials are available, free-of-charge, at GoutEducation.org.
The Gout & Uric Acid Education Society is a nonprofit organization of health care professionals dedicated to educating the public and health care community about gout – the most common form of inflammatory arthritis – and the related consequences of hyperuricemia. Learn more at GoutEducation.org. Twitter: @GoutEducation Facebook: Gout Education
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i Online survey of 1,001 nationally representative Americans ages 18+, with an oversampling of up to 100 interviews of adults who have been diagnosed with gout. Conducted in August 2015 by Wakefield Research on behalf of the Gout & Uric Acid Education Society.