A new study by the American Heart Association has revealed the obvious. Elevated cholesterol for a prolonged period of time during adulthood substantially raises risk of heart disease. For every ten years where there is a mildly elevated cholesterol level the risk of heart disease is increased by 40%.
“Our findings suggest that they [adults with longstanding mild to moderately [taken from the manuscript] elevated cholesterol levels] may benefit from more aggressive prevention strategies earlier,” said lead study author Ann Marie Navar-Boggan, M.D., Ph.D, and cardiology fellow at the Duke Clinical Research Institute in Durham, N.C.
The research study evaluated 1,478 adults who were free of cardiovascular disease at the age of 55 years, and calculated the length of time each participant had experienced high cholesterol by that age. The participants were followed for an additional 20 years to evaluate the duration of exposure to high cholesterol on their risk of heart disease. The findings were dose dependent depending upon the duration of cholesterol exposure and future risk of heart disease.
The study specifically found the following:
Participants with 11 to 20 years of high cholesterol had a 16.5 percent overall risk of heart disease.
Those with one to 10 years of cholesterol exposure had 8.1 percent risk.
Those who did not have high cholesterol at the start of the study had only a 4.4 percent risk for heart disease.
Each decade of high cholesterol raised the risk of heart disease by 39 percent, suggesting that the cumulative effects of even mild or moderate elevations in cholesterol can pose a significant risk to heart health.
“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,” Navar-Boggan the senior study author said. “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.”
Hyperlipidemia in Early Adulthood Increases Long-Term Risk of Coronary Heart Disease, Ann Marie Navar-Boggan; Eric D. Peterson; Ralph B. D’Agostino; Benjamin Neely; Allan D. Sniderman; Michael J. Pencina, Circulation, doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.114.012477, published online 26 January 2015.