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Should I be concerned about cardiovascular disease if I am under 50?

With risk factors of cardiovascular disease, such as diet, sedentary lifestyle, stress, body mass index (BMI), etc., there are many studies that conclude that the more healthy habits we developed earlier in life, the more likely we will be able to maintain these habits, and the more likely we will benefit with a longer, healthier life, free from disease. A recent study published in "Circulation" hits this point—55 year olds who had prolonged, moderately elevated non-high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels (≥ 160) when they were young adults were much more likely than their peers to have coronary heart disease by the time they were 70, in an analysis based on the Framingham Offspring Cohort. In essence, having decades of exposure to what many would consider mild to moderately elevated cholesterol levels is associated with a significantly elevated risk of cardiovascular disease. Some state that the way we think about smoking in terms of “pack-years,” we should be thinking about “lipid-years” of exposure to high cholesterol.

Young adults need to remember that the foundation for cardiovascular disease is being laid in our 20s, 30s and 40s, and risk factor modification at that age may be really important.

Some people under age 50 do need to be concerned about cardiovascular disease. For example, you may be at risk for the problem if you have:

  • a family history of early heart disease (under age 50 in men or under 60 in women)
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • a history of smoking or tobacco use

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.