High cholesterol levels or, at least, cholesterol plaque buildup in arteries is proven to cause stroke and heart attack down the road.
And having high cholesterol is riskier as we age. It’s actually not that dangerous for young adults.
But when is the time to take action and tackle your cholesterol level?
A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology answers this.
Be warned: the results may shock you.
The authors collected data from six large studies that had followed their subjects over long periods, from young adulthood to later life.
This gave them the trajectories of 36,030 people’s low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, as well as their systolic and diastolic blood pressure scores from age 18 onward.
It also provided them with details of these same people’s later coronary heart diseases, heart failures, and strokes.
Armed with all this information, they could calculate whether high cholesterol and blood pressure during early adulthood posed a risk of heart disease later in life and whether action to lower cholesterol and blood pressure after age 40 reduces these risks.
These were their findings:
1. Those with LDL cholesterol above 100 mg/dl between the ages of 18 and 39 were 64 percent more likely to have coronary heart disease when compared to people with LDL below 100 mg/dl during this period, even if they lowered their cholesterol after age 40.
2. Those with systolic blood pressure readings of 130 (mmHg) or higher during early adulthood were 37 percent more likely to experience heart failure in later life than those with early scores lower than 120 mmHg.
3. Those with diastolic blood pressure of greater than 80 mmHg during early adulthood were 21 percent more likely to have heart failure later in life than those with scores below 80 mmHg.
This seems to be depressing, as it appears to suggest that nothing you do after age 40 matters to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.
But this is not true. Consider the following:
1. While your later-life risk of coronary heart disease (clogged arteries) increases if your cholesterol is too high in young adulthood, your risk of stroke and heart failure does not increase significantly if your cholesterol was high in young adulthood but you lowered it after age 40.
2. While your later-life risk of coronary heart disease increases if your cholesterol is too high in young adulthood, it increases even more if you do not lower your cholesterol after age 40.
This gives you two good reasons to continue working on your cholesterol when you are older than 40.