Half of Young Adults Have CHD Risk Factors

July 22, 2010

July 22, 2010 (Atlanta, Georgia) Approximately half of young adults have at least one cardiovascular disease risk factor, such as a family history of disease, smoking, hypertension, or obesity, according to the results of a new study [1]. An assessment of blood cholesterol levels, however, remains low in this population, and less than 50%, irrespective of cardiovascular risk status, are screened for high cholesterol levels, report researchers.

"Because the severity of atherosclerosis in young adults increases with the number of risk factors, the low screening rates, particularly among young persons with two or more risk factors, are of concern," write lead author Dr Elena Kuklina (Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, GA) and colleagues in the July/August issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

The data are from an analysis of 2587 young adults--men aged 20 to 35 years and women aged 20 to 45 years--included in the 1999-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys.

Overall, 55.2% of men and women had at least one cardiovascular disease risk factor; 17.9% had two risk factors. Of these men and women, 4.6% had CHD or a CHD risk equivalent. Regarding screening, less than 50% of people were screened for elevated cholesterol levels, although it was higher among women than men. Among those with CHD or a CHD risk equivalent, however, just 67% of young adults were screened for elevated cholesterol; 47% of adults with two or more risk factors were screened.

Among young adults, the prevalence of high cholesterol levels increased with the number of CHD risk factors--65% of those with CHD/CHD risk equivalent had high LDL-cholesterol levels, compared with 6.7% of those without any risk factors--but the screening rate was less than 50% regardless of risk status. Also, there was no statistically significant difference in screening rates among those with no risk factors and those with one or more risk factors.

"Our results indicate that improvement of risk assessment and management for cardiovascular disease among young adults through evidence-based clinical and public health interventions is warranted," conclude the authors.