Japan and the Burden of
High Cholesterol

High cholesterol Japan

High cholesterol is a significant health concern across the globe. In Japan, for example, the number of adults suspected to have high cholesterol was estimated to be more than 22 million in 2012 and steadily increases every year.

Cholesterol is an organic molecule used by cells to perform essential functions throughout the body. Unfortunately, high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) is a major risk factor for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Cholesterol is transported around the body by carriers called lipoproteins. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) delivers cholesterol to cells, and is often described as “bad cholesterol” because it deposits cholesterol within the walls of arteries (atherosclerosis). High-density lipoprotein (HDL) helps remove cholesterol from cells, and is often described as “good cholesterol” because it transports cholesterol to the liver for disposal.


Despite treatment with current standard-of-care lipid-lowering therapy, many people across the globe continue to have poorly controlled LDL-C.

And yet, high LDL cholesterol is a major risk factor for CVD, which accounts for an estimated 31 percent of all global deaths. One in four Japanese people die from atherosclerotic diseases, including CVD.



Account of Two Men Engaged in a fight against the same common enemy: high LDL cholesterol


The following patients from Japan are featured in “Heart Felt, True Stories of Life in the Shadow of High Cholesterol,” a documentary that sheds light on how the serious issue of high LDL-C impacts daily lives around the world.


Minoru IwagamiMinoru Iwagami, a business executive, is living with high levels of LDL-C. Despite faithfully taking six medications for heart disease, cholesterol and diabetes, including statins and insulin, and making lifestyle changes, Minoru’s LDL-C levels have not improved sufficiently. He lost both of his parents and an older brother to cardiovascular disease and the danger of his high LDL-C weighs heavily on his mind.


Minoru feels 10 years younger than his body and knows he must remain active and not give in to his illnesses or “it will be the end of him.” He is anxious about his two sons, who he is afraid will have the same health problems.







Masayuki TanakaMasayuki Tanaka, or “Mabo,” as he is known, is a Japanese vocalist and one of the original members of the legendary rock band Crystal King. At the age of 60, he suffered a heart attack, attributed to his love for fried foods, history of smoking and also high levels of LDL-C.

He felt severe chest pain and a squeezing of his heart and, although he took deep, calming breaths, he was afraid he would die alone at home. Mabo mustered the strength to call an ambulance and was rushed to the hospital.


Three months later he was back on stage performing at a live concert in honor of his 61st birthday, a day filled with profound meaning for him as he felt profoundly lucky to be alive. Today, Mabo regularly visits his doctors and takes cholesterol-lowering medication, balancing his life as a musician and a man on a mission to improve his health.




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