Friday, August 6, 2010

Gen Ys - Take This To Heart

Atherosclerosis, or blockages in the coronary artery from cholesterol and plaque, can lead to heart attack and stroke.

However, it's always assumed that non-optimal cholesterol levels are insignificant for young people.

To assess whether nonoptimal lipid levels during young adulthood cause atherosclerotic changes that persist into middle age, Mark J. Pletcher and colleagues at UCSF initiated a study in 1985 involving 3,258 men and women aged 18 to 30 for two decades with repeated measurements of low- and high-density lipoprotein (LDL and HDL) cholesterol and triglycerides (fat molecules in the blood).

These measurements were then related to coronary calcium scores assessed when participants were about 45 years old. Coronary artery calcium is indicative of atherosclerotic plaque buildup in the coronary arteries.

The study revealed that:

  • 44% of those with LDL levels greater than 160 mg/dL (4.15mmol/L) had calcium accumulation in their coronary arteries
  • Those with high LDL levels were 5.6 times more likely to have calcium build up in their arteries, compared to those with LDL levels below 70 mg/dL(1.81mmol/l).
  • Individuals with LDL levels between 100-129 mg/dL (2.59-3.34mmol/l)were 2.4 times as likely to have calcium accumulation in their coronary arteries compared to those with the lowest LDL levels. )
Assoc Prof Pletcher explained that exposure to higher-than-normal LDL during young adulthood (and even childhood) really does matter when it comes to heart disease risk at middle age - the damage persists until then.

Unfortunately, modest rises in LDL levels are frequently ignored by young patients and their doctors.

You can manage your cholesterol level by switching over to a positive lifestyle:

  • Have your cholesterol level tested as often as your doctor suggests. A simple blood test shows what your cholesterol level is and whether you are at increased risk for heart disease.
  • Reduce your weight and your cholesterol level by making wise food choices and by using low-cholesterol cooking techniques
  • Have regular aerobic exercise and reduce other heart risks, such as smoking, excessive alcohol
  • Manage stress and if necessary,
  • Supplement with Fish Oil, preferably of the re-esterified TG form ;)

Journal Reference:

Mark J. Pletcher, Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, Kiang Liu, Steve Sidney, Feng Lin, Eric Vittinghoff, Stephen B. Hulley. Nonoptimal Lipids Commonly Present in Young Adults and Coronary Calcium Later in Life: The CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults) Study. Annals of Internal Medicine August 3, 2010 153:137-146

The American Academy of Family Physicians advises

Signs of high cholesterol levels

Often there are no signs. Without a blood test, you may not know you have high levels of fat in your blood until you have a heart attack or a stroke. Some people with high lipid levels have yellowish, fatty bumps on their skin.

Treatment for high lipid levels

The first ways to reduce your lipid levels are (1) eat less fat, (2) exercise regularly and (3) lose weight if you weigh too much. If you smoke, stop smoking. If these steps don't lower your LDL level enough, your doctor may have you take medicine to take the fat out of your blood.

Some ways to cut down on fat in your diet

  • Buy lean cuts of meat. Cut away all visible fat before cooking it.
  • Remove the skin from chicken before cooking it.
  • Don't eat fried foods or high-fat sauces.
  • Instead of frying meat, broil it or grill it.
  • Don't eat egg yolks. You can eat egg whites or egg substitutes.
  • Use low-fat dairy products, such as skim milk or 1% milk, low-fat frozen yogurt, low-fat ice cream and low-fat cheeses.
  • Don't use whole milk, full-fat ice cream, sour cream, cheese or milk chocolate.
  • Put more fiber in your diet. Fruits and vegetables are good sources of fiber. Eat three to five servings of vegetables a day and two to four servings of fruits.


Aerobic exercises, such as walking, running, bicycling and swimming, are a good way to lower your blood cholesterol. Exercise also lowers your blood pressure, your blood sugar level and your stress level. If you weigh too much, aerobic exercise helps you burn calories. That will help you lose weight. Aerobic exercise should be done on a regular basis: work up to exercising for 30 minutes at a time four or five times a week. You can also exercise for a shorter time, such as 10 to 15 minutes. But if you exercise for only 10 to 15 minutes at a time, you need to exercise more often than four or five times a week .

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