MONDAY, Aug. 4, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Programs to lower cholesterol from childhood on could lower rates of coronary artery disease and save lives, according to a review from a team at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine.
Current approaches to lowering cholesterol to prevent heart disease are "too little, too late," according to the physician-researchers. There's a large body of evidence proving that low cholesterol levels are linked with low rates of heart disease and "...our long-term goal should be to alter our lifestyle accordingly, beginning in infancy or early childhood."
The review authors noted that "instituting a low-saturated fat, low-cholesterol diet in infancy (7 months) is perfectly safe, without adverse effects."
"Our review of the literature convinces us that more aggressive and earlier intervention will probably prevent considerably more than 30 percent of coronary heart disease," lipid researcher Dr. Daniel Steinberg, a professor emeritus of medicine, said in a university news release. "Studies show that fatty streak lesions in the arteries that are a precursor to atherosclerosis and heart disease begin in childhood, and advanced lesions are not uncommon by age 30. Why not nip things in the bud?"
Currently, interventions typically begin in adults diagnosed with high cholesterol levels or other risk factors or symptoms of coronary artery disease. However, even if efforts to lower cholesterol in a 50-year-old patient prove successful, it's unlikely to reverse established arterial disease.
They don't advocate the use of drug therapy to achieve low cholesterol levels in the population at large. Instead, they suggest programs to promote lifelong healthy eating and exercise.
A national program to lower cholesterol could be combined with government efforts to fight obesity and diabetes.
"A concerted national effort might dramatically reduce morbidity and mortality due to three major chronic diseases. It would take generations to achieve, and it would require an all-out commitment of money and manpower to re-educate and modify the behavior of a nation. Is that impossible? No. We have already shown that even a frankly addictive behavior like cigarette smoking can be overcome [eventually]," the authors wrote.
The review was published in the Aug. 5 issue of Circulation.
The American Heart Association has more about cholesterol.