Under 45? Lowering Your Cholesterol Now Could Prevent Heart Disease Later, Study Suggests
Many people don't begin worrying about their cholesterol levels until later in life, but that may be increasing their odds of heart problems in the long term.
A new study, published this week in The Lancet, found that adults with higher levels of cholesterol at age 45 or younger were at a higher risk of heart disease or stroke by age 75 than older adults with similar cholesterol levels, but healthy lifestyle changes could cut that risk.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in foods and also produced in the liver. According to BBC News, there are two types of cholesterol: "good" HDL cholesterol that our bodies use to make hormones like testosterone or estrogen and bad "non-HDL" cholesterol, which causes plaque build-up that clogs arteries and is a top risk factor for heart disease.
For the study, the researchers examined 38 previous studies involving almost 400,000 adults between 30-85 years old from 19 different countries. None of the participants had heart disease at the start of the study and one third were under 45 years old. Each participant's health was tracked during a median follow-up period of up to 43 years — during which almost 55,000 ended up with either heart disease or had a stroke.
Using this information, the researchers developed a model to determine heart disease risk based on bad cholesterol levels, age, sex and other common risk factors, such as smoking, blood pressure and weight, TIME reported.
Based on the model, the researchers found that a man under 45 with higher bad cholesterol levels and two other risk factors has a 29% chance of heart problems by age 75, while a man at least 60 years old with the same conditions had only a 21 percent chance, CNN reported.
For women with similar characteristics, those under 45 had a 16 percent risk while those 60 and older had a 12 percent risk.
"The increased risk in younger people could be due to the longer exposure to harmful lipids in the blood," study author Barbara Thorand, a researcher with the German Research Center for Environmental Health, said in a press release.
The researchers suggested that "intervening early and intensively" to lower bad cholesterol could significantly reduce the risk of heart problems down the road: men under 45 who cut their bad cholesterol in half would see their risk drop from 29 percent to just 6 percent, while the odds for younger women could be as low as 4 percent.
Monitoring Your Cholesterol
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting regular cholesterol tests shortly after you turn 20.
Other than taking statin medications, the American Heart Association recommends the following lifestyle changes to lower cholesterol:
- Limit intake of trans and saturated fats by eating a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts, instead of red meats, fried foods, dairy and sugary products.
- Exercise for 30 minutes a day or 150 minutes a week
- Quit smoking, as tobacco lowers good cholesterol and increases other heart disease factors like high blood pressure.
- Lose weight. Even a 10 percent loss can improve cholesterol numbers.
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By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.
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Anger, anxiety, overwhelm … climate change can evoke intense feelings.
"It's easy to feel dwarfed in the context of such a global systemic issue," says psychologist Renée Lertzman.
She says that when people experience these feelings, they often shut down and push information away. So to encourage climate action, she advises not bombarding people with frightening facts.
"When we lead with information, we are actually unwittingly walking right into a situation that is set up to undermine our efforts," she says.
She says if you want to engage people on the topic, take a compassionate approach. Ask people what they know and want to learn. Then have a conversation.
This conversational approach may seem at odds with the urgency of the issue, but Lertzman says it can get results faster.
"When we take a compassion-based approach, we are actively disarming defenses so that people are actually more willing and able to respond and engage quicker," she says. "And we don't have time right now to mess around, and so I do actually come to this topic with a sense of urgency… We do not have time to not take this approach."
Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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