Cholesterol Levels as a Young Adult Impact Your Heart Disease Risk

Health Professional

Long-term high cholesterol significantly increases lifetime risk for heart disease, according to  new research  in the American Heart Association's journal  Circulation.

The longer you live with  high cholesterol levels, the higher your risk for heart disease as you age. According to this study, for every 10 years cholesterol is mildly elevated between the ages of 35 to 55, heart disease risk may increase 40 percent.

It's suggested that adults with longstanding mild or moderately high cholesterol levels might benefit from more aggressive treatment plans.

Data from the Framingham Heart Study, which began in 1948, was used by researchers for this study. A group of 1,478 adults without heart disease at age 55 were evaluated to determine what length of time each lived with high cholesterol. They were broken into segments of "no high cholesterol," "high cholesterol for one to 10 years," and "high cholesterol for 11 to 20 years." This group was then followed for 20 years, ages 55 to 75, to see how high cholesterol levels impacted their risk of developing heart disease. Beginning at age 55, there were 389 participants who had lived with high cholesterol for 10 years, 577 who had lived with cholesterol 11 to 20 years, and 512 participants who did not have high cholesterol.

Research results indicate  increased heart disease risk  with longer exposure to high cholesterol levels.

For example, participants with high cholesterol for 11 to 20 years before the age of 55 had a 16.5 percent overall risk of heart disease. Those with one to 10 years of high cholesterol exposure had an 8.1 percent risk. Participants without high cholesterol had a 4.4 percent risk for heart disease.

It was found that each decade of high cholesterol increased risk of heart disease by 39 percent.

What does this mean to you?

Living with even mildly elevated cholesterol levels appears to have a cumulative effect on your risk for heart disease**.  **Even if your cholesterol is only slightly elevated, you should still take it seriously and implement changes to maintain normal cholesterol levels.

Proactive steps you can take:

  1. Participate in cholesterol screenings
  2. Follow up with your doctor on lab work if levels are elevated
  3. Implement necessary  diet and lifestyle changes to lower cholesterol levels

Keep in mind that the steps you need to take to lower triglyceride levels differ from diet modifications that will lower LDL cholesterol levels. Know your numbers and learn the diet changes that will have the greatest impact for you.

As you work to lower cholesterol levels, utilize the free e-course  How to Lower Cholesterol in 8 Simple Steps  at