ScienceDaily (Aug. 2, 2010) — Young people with even modestly elevated cholesterol levels are more likely to develop coronary artery calcium and atherosclerosis later in life, according to a 20-year study to be released on August 2 by UCSF researchers.
he findings indicate that cholesterol levels found in the majority of young adults in their 20s and 30s are associated with damage to coronary arteries, which can accumulate over time and persist into middle age.
Findings will be published August 2, 2010 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The findings refute the common assumption that non-optimal cholesterol levels are insignificant during young adulthood and suggest a stronger emphasis on early lifestyle intervention, according to Mark J. Pletcher, MD, MPH, who is first author on the study.
“We don’t usually worry too much about heart disease risk until a person is in middle age because it’s rare to have a heart attack in young adulthood,” said Pletcher, who is an associate professor of Epidemiology & Biostatistics and of Medicine at UCSF. “However, our evidence shows that young adulthood is an important time because lasting damage already starts to accumulate at this age.”
“In order to prevent heart disease and stroke more effectively, we should be thinking about cholesterol at a younger age,” he said.
The study followed 3,258 men and women aged 18 to 30 for two decades with repeated measurements of low- and high-density lipoprotein (LDL and HDL) cholesterol and triglycerides (fat molecules in the blood). Coronary artery calcium, which is indicative of atherosclerotic plaque buildup in the coronary arteries, was measured by a CT scan at the end of follow-up when participants were about 45 years old.
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