Study Has Important Implications for Heart Disease Prevention Efforts
Cardiovascular health programs will need to shift focus to include not only youths but a greater emphasis on women as well.
Like healthy eating habits, heart disease prevention must start early, a landmark study shows.
although heart disease usually results in death or disability after age
50, risk factors for heart disease affect the development of
atherosclerosis early in life — even before age 20, according to
results of the study, supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood
results help settle a long-standing controversy," said Dr. Claude
Lenfant, NHLBI director. It was known that the buildup of cholesterol
in arteries leads to heart disease but, because of the difficulty of
gathering data on children, it was not known when the buildup began to
"We now know that the risk factors important in adulthood are just as crucial in children," said Lenfant.
Pathobiological Determinants of Atherosclerosis in Youth (PDAY) study
findings also show for the first time that three risk factors —
high density lipoprotein (HDL), low density lipoprotein (LDL) and
smoking — affect the progression of atherosclerosis about equally
in women and men, and in blacks and whites.
results have profound implications for heart disease prevention," said
Dr. Henry McGill, senior scientist at the Southwest Foundation for
Biomedical Research and lead author of the study article, published in
"Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology" journal.
thought that, since heart disease deaths tend to occur 10 years later
in women than men, women did not need to start preventive measures as
early," McGill noted. "These data confirm that all persons —
women and men, black and white — need to adopt healthful habits
as soon as possible."
15 centers nationwide that gathered data from autopsies of 1,079 men
and 364 women, ages 15-34, who died from accident, homicide or suicide.
Measurements taken included blood levels of HDL and LDL, and
thiocyanate, a chemical marker for smoking. Coronary arteries were
examined for the extent of cholesterol deposits and scar tissue.
showed dramatic and early differences in atherosclerosis between those
with good risk factor profiles and those with bad profiles. Those with
high HDL levels, low LDL levels and no evidence of smoking lacked
severe deposits in arteries. By contrast, those with low HDL, high LDL
and smoking had marked fatty streaks and deposits. The differences
appeared by age 15, researchers noted.
Address: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 9000 Rockville Pike, Building 31, Bethesda, MD 20892; (301) 496-5166.
Copyright 1999 Health Resources Publishing