Early cholesterol treatment lowers heart disease risk

Henrietta Strickland
December 5, 2019

These are just two of the findings from what is being billed as the "most comprehensive analysis of long-term risk for cardiovascular disease related to non-high-density lipoprotein, or non-HDL, cholesterol" - the type of cholesterol most linked with heart health.

The new global study involved data on more than 400,000 people from 38 different trials.

Early and intensive action to reduce non-HDL cholesterol levels could reverse initial narrowing of the arteries, but it's not clear whether slightly increased or normal cholesterol levels affect heart disease risk, or at which levels treatment should be recommended, particularly in younger adults, the study authors said.

To learn just how much, the researchers analyzed individual-level data from almost 400,000 participants in 38 studies from 19 countries in Europe, Australia and North America. During a follow-up period of up to 43 years, nearly 55,000 of the study participants developed heart disease or stroke. At the start of each study, participants' cholesterol levels were measured, and they answered questions about their medical histories, lifestyle and demographics.

The researchers used that information both to find connections between baseline cholesterol levels and later heart issues, and to create a model for predicting a person's risk of heart problems based on their sex, age and common risk factors, including smoking status, blood pressure, body mass index, diabetes diagnosis and medication regimens.

The study published in the Lancet sets out that women with bad cholesterol levels between 3.7-4.8 mmol/litre, who were younger than 45, and had at least two additional cardiovascular risk factors, had a 16 per cent probability of experiencing a cardiovascular disease event by the age of 75.

For men, these figures were 29 percent and 21 percent, respectively.

A slim, fit man of 34, he found he had a surprisingly high "bad" level of 4.0 mmol/L, which would give him a 19 percent chance of suffering a heart attack or stroke by the age of 75.

Study co-author Professor Frank Kee of Queens University Belfast said statins are not the right approach for everyone, and diet, exercise and weight loss should also be attempted.

Their findings suggest that lowering cholesterol at an early age can significantly cut heart risk in later life. "The risk scores now used in the clinic to decide whether a person should have lipid-lowering treatment only assess the risk of cardiovascular disease over 10 years, and so may underestimate lifetime risk, particularly in young people".

"You should determine your cholesterol at the very young age", he added.

Researchers said that even those who were young and lived a healthy lifestyle could benefit from their hypothesis if they had a genetic risk.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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