Unhealthy Young Adults Are Harming Their Hearts

Weight gain, hypertension quickly damage arteries, study shows

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FRIDAY, April 20, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Young adults who smoke, are overweight, and have higher-than-optimal blood pressure, LDL (bad) cholesterol and blood sugar levels are nearly three times as likely to develop calcium deposits in their heart arteries over the next 15 years compared to healthier individuals, researchers say.

Coronary calcium is a strong predictor of heart disease.

The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study began in 1985 by measuring heart disease risk factors in more than 5,100 black and white adults, ages 18 to 30, in Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, Minneapolis, and Oakland, Calif. The participants were then followed for 15 years.

The study, by researchers at the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), is in the April 17 online issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and is expected to be published in the April 24 print issue.

"These findings remind us that we should begin assessing our heart disease risk as early as possible, with a focus on prevention," Dr. Elizabeth G. Nabel, NHLBI director, said in a prepared statement.

"All the risk factors we assessed are modifiable. Young adults who achieve and maintain optimal risk factor levels early on could enter middle age with healthy hearts," she said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about heart disease risk factors.

SOURCE: U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, news release, April 16, 2007

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