Young People with Elevated Lipids at Increased Risk of Coronary Artery Disease as They Age

However, we do know that the process that causes cholesterol to build up In our arteries is a long-term process that can even begin in the teenage years, especially in people with a strong family history of atherosclerosis. A recent article in the journal Circulation, the major peer-reviewed publication of the American Heart Association, a study from the Duke Clinical Research Unit in Durham, NC reported that young people with only moderately elevated lipid blood levels, or hyperlipidemia, had a much high incidence of coronary artery atherosclerosis or heart disease by age 55.

The data were obtained from the Framingham Offspring Cohort data. Framingham, Massachusetts is small town in which many of its citizens have been willing to be followed for the incidence of heart disease and its risk factors, and the Framingham Studies have made major contributions to our understanding of heart disease since the 1950’s. In these people, who were the children of the original Framingham patients, the incidence of coronary heart disease was 4.4% with no exposure to moderate hyperlipidemia, 8.1% for those with 1-10 years of exposure, and 16.5% for those with 11-20 years of exposure. In these people with moderate hyperlipidemia, current guidelines would not have indicated a need for lipid lowering medication.

This study points out that the development of coronary artery disease is a long-term process, and that it is likely that more aggressive treatment of hyperlipidemia with medication, as well as attention to a good healthy diet, avoiding cigarette smoking, and exercise is warranted in young people. This article is available to be reviewed for free on the Circulation website.

Reference: Navar-Boggan A, Peterson E et al. Hyperlipidemia in early adulthood increases the longterm risk of coronary artery disease. Circulation 2015 131: 451-458.

Dr. Arnold Meshkov

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