MONDAY, August 2 (HealthDay News) -- Young adults whose cholesterol levels are even slightly higher than normal are at greater risk of developing artery-clogging calcium deposits later in life, which can trigger hardening of the arteries leading to heart disease, a new study suggests.
This conclusion runs counter to the common assumption that modestly high cholesterol levels are nothing to worry about in young adults. Equally important, it argues that people need to start eating healthy and exercising early to prevent heart disease, the researchers say.
"You can't just ignore your cholesterol levels until you get into middle age. You have to be thinking about them and having a healthy diet and exercise regimen even early in life when you are at low risk for heart attacks," said lead researcher Dr. Mark J. Pletcher, an assistant professor in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.
Pletcher recommends diet and exercise as a way to control cholesterol, because the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins in young adults is controversial. People should start having their cholesterol checked when they are in their 20s, he said, and they should start a healthy diet and exercise program at the same time.
The report is published in the Aug. 2 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
For the study, Pletcher's team collected data on almost 3,300 men and women 18 to 30 years old participating in the CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults) Study. Participants in the prospective study -- recruited from four different U.S. cities -- were comprised of black and white men and women who were healthy when they enrolled. Over a period of 20 years, they had their low- and high-density lipoprotein (LDL and HDL) cholesterol and triglycerides levels measured repeatedly.
After 20 years, t
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