In a new study, researchers found increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels in young adulthood may lead to a higher risk of heart disease later in life.
This effect exists regardless of later in life exposure to these risk factors.
The research was conducted by a team from Columbia University.
Blood pressure and cholesterol are major risk factors for heart disease.
Previous studies have found young adults with these health conditions may have heart disease later in life.
But it is unclear if this contributes to later risk independently of the health conditions experienced later in life.
In the new study, the team used data from six large, community-based, prospective cohort studies to examine heart disease risks starting at age 18 through follow-up.
They estimated the how high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels during young adulthood (age 18-39 years) and later adulthood (age > 40 years) was linked to the subsequent risk of coronary heart disease, heart failure, and stroke.
A total of 36,030 participants were included in the analysis.
Over a follow-up period of 17 years, there were 4,570 incident coronary heart disease (CHD) events, 5,119 heart failure events, and 2,862 stroke events.
The team found that measurements of blood pressure and cholesterol levels from young adulthood were all strongly linked to later in life health conditions.
Moreover, higher LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol) during young adulthood was linked to a 64% increased risk of coronary heart disease, independent of later life exposures.
High blood pressure in young adulthood was independently linked to a 37% and 21% increased risk of heart failure, respectively.
Increased levels of high later life high blood pressure were strong predictors of stroke.
The findings show that young adulthood is a critical period when high blood pressure or cholesterol are particularly harmful.
Maintaining healthy blood pressure and LDL cholesterol throughout young adulthood may help reduce heart disease risk later in life.
The lead author of the study is Andrew E. Moran, MD, MPH, associate professor at Columbia University.
The study is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
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