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Early Risk Factors Predict Coronary Artery Calcium

Above optimal risk factors in young adults linked to twofold to threefold odds for coronary artery calcium

TUESDAY, May 15 (HealthDay News) -- Although young adults have relatively low levels of modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease, these risk factors are better predictors of coronary artery calcium in middle age than subsequent risks, according to a report in the May 22 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Catherine M. Loria, Ph.D., from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues used data collected from the prospective CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults) study to determine if established, modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease (e.g., cholesterol levels, blood pressure, smoking) measured in 18- to 30-year-olds predicts coronary artery calcium (CAC) and other risk factors at ages 33 to 45.

Overall, 9.6 percent of subjects had CAC, with a greater prevalence in males, whites and older subjects. Baseline levels of risk factors predicted CAC as well as 15-year average levels and better than concurrent levels. Risk factors increased the odds for CAC from 1.2-fold per 15-mg/dL glucose to as much as 1.5-fold per 10 cigarettes or 30 mg/dL low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Young adults with above-optimal risk factor levels at baseline were two to three times more likely to have CAC.

"Early adult levels of modifiable risk factors, albeit low, were equally or more informative about odds of CAC in middle age than subsequent levels," the authors write. "Earlier risk assessment and efforts to encourage young adults to achieve and maintain optimal levels may be needed to prevent or delay coronary calcification, which has been shown to predict subsequent coronary heart disease."

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