Having even mildly elevated cholesterol levels in your 30s can significantly raise your risk of heart disease later on, a new study has found.
US researchers looked at almost 1,500 adults taking part in a long-term ongoing study. All of the participants were free of cardiovascular disease (CVD) at the age of 55. CVD includes coronary heart disease and stroke and is Ireland's biggest killer, resulting in around 10,000 deaths here every year.
The length of time the participants had elevated cholesterol levels was analysed in relation to their age at the time.
The study found that for every 10 years a person had even mildly elevated cholesterol between the ages of 35 and 55, their risk of heart disease jumped by 39%. This suggests that the cumulative effects of even mild cholesterol can have a major impact on the health of the heart.
Even those with between just one and 10 years of elevated cholesterol levels had an almost 10% increased risk of developing heart disease.
The researchers acknowledged that while not every 35-year-old with mild to moderate cholesterol levels will need to start on statins - a class of drug used to treat high cholesterol levels - these young adults need to be made aware of their increased risk.
"It's never too soon for young adults to talk with their doctors about heart health, which should include how to manage cholesterol levels through diet and exercise, and in certain cases, medication.
"The plaques in arteries that break off and cause heart attacks later in life take years to develop. What is happening in your blood vessels, in particular your cholesterol levels, during your 30's and 40's affects your heart health in your 50's, 60's and 70's," they commented.
The team from the Duke Clinical Research Institute in North Carolina added that adults with mild to moderate cholesterol levels ‘may benefit from more aggressive prevention strategies earlier'.
Details of these findings are published in the journal, Circulation.
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