Younger people should have their cholesterol checked at 25

Henrietta Strickland
December 5, 2019

Prescribing statins to people in their 20s could prevent heart attacks and strokes in their 70s, a new study has suggested.

"Simple lifestyle changes can help to reduce your bad cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease, so the earlier that people can start to take steps, the better".

They say it is possible to use the reading to calculate the lifetime risk of heart disease and stroke.

"The second message is that you need to show these young people their potential risk".

Non-HDL cholesterol is arrived at by subtracting a person's HDL level from their total cholesterol number, and accordingly measures all the bad lipoproteins.

The researchers collected data from 38 studies conducted in North America, Europe and Australia, comprising about 400,000 people without cardiovascular disease, a third of whom were younger than 45.

Co-author Professor Stefan Blankenberg, medical and clinical director at the University Heart and Vascular Center UKE Hamburg, said: "There's one key message - you should at least put into the guidelines that LDL and non-HDL cholesterol determination should be an obligation".

Looking at data for all age groups and both sexes, the authors found that the risk for a cardiovascular event decreased continuously with decreasing non-HDL levels.

Two U.S. heart experts unconnected to the study agreed that high levels of non-HDL cholesterol are problematic at any age.

The study authors estimate that a man younger than 45 who halves his non-HDL cholesterol levels could slash his chance of later heart problems from 29% to 6%, while a younger woman's probability could drop from 16% to 4%. Notably, though, for women aged 60 or over with the same characteristics, the estimated risk was 12 percent, the study found.

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

"The risk may also appear larger compared to older ages because people aged 60 years and older in our study had not developed cardiovascular disease up to this age, so they may be healthier than others of their age who were excluded from the study because they had had cardiovascular disease", Thorand said.

The study, in The Lancet, is the most comprehensive yet to look at the long-term health risks of having too much "bad" cholesterol for decades.

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

Report co-author, Prof Stefan Blankenberg, from the University Heart Center, Hamburg, said: "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".

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.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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