Cholesterol, Stroke and Heart Disease

There aren’t too many words that have quite a negative connotation as “cholesterol.” To be sure, not all cholesterol is bad, but high levels of the wrong types of cholesterol have long been known to cause serious health issues. According to a recent report, high cholesterol levels can prove harmful for even relatively young adults. 

A Global View

Published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, this report represented the most thorough and detailed research on the dangers of “bad” cholesterol. Specifically, this it analyzed data from nearly forty prior studies conducted across Europe, Australia and North America, encompassing nearly 400,000 individuals. At the beginning of every study, none of the subjects had been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. On average, the adults documented in the studies were tracked for 13.5 years. 

A Long-Term Threat 

For younger adults with high levels of non-HDL cholesterol, the news was not good; such individuals were found to be at risk of major heart-related problems in their later years. Women under 45 with abnormally high cholesterol levels had a 16 percent risk of suffering a “cardiovascular disease event” over the proceeding thirty year period. In comparison, for women aged 60 and up with the same level of high cholesterol – in this case, between 3.7-4.8 mmol/liter – the probability of such an event was only 12 percent. 

The team also examined the long-term heart health of both young and old men. As with their female subjects, the authors once again identified participants with harmful cholesterol levels between 3.7-4.8 mmol/liter. Once again, elevated non-HDL cholesterol readings were often a prelude to cardiovascular disease events; men under 45 stood a 29 percent risk of such events, whereas those aged 60 and up had a 21 percent likelihood of such problems. 

Professor Barbara Thorand, a member of German Research Center for Environmental Health, offered a possible explanation for the report’s conclusions. “This increased risk in younger people could be due to the longer exposure to harmful lipids in the blood,” stated Thorand. “The risk may also appear larger compared to older ages because people aged 60 years and older in our study had not developed cardiovascular disease up to this age, so they may be healthier than others of their age who were excluded from the study because they had had cardiovascular disease.”

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