People should have their cholesterol level checked from the age of 25 to head off future health problems, according to a new study published in The Lancet.
The study analysed data from almost 400,000 people from 19 countries and found a strong link between bad-cholesterol levels and the risk of cardiovascular disease from early adulthood over the next 40 years or more.
The researchers were able to estimate the probability of a heart attack or stroke for people aged 35 and over, according to their gender, bad-cholesterol level, age and risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, height and weight, and blood pressure.
‘This large study again emphasises the importance of cholesterol as a major risk factor for heart attacks and stroke,’ said British Heart Foundation medical director Prof Sir Nilesh Samani.
‘It also shows that for some people, taking measures at a much earlier stage to lower cholesterol, for example by taking statins, may have a substantial benefit in reducing their lifelong risk from these diseases.’
According to the study, a 50% reduction of cholesterol concentrations was associated with reduced risk of a cardiovascular disease event by the age of 75 years, and this risk reduction was greater the earlier cholesterol concentrations were reduced.
‘Non-HDL cholesterol concentrations in blood are strongly associated with long-term risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease,’ commented the study’s authors. ‘We provide a simple tool for individual long-term risk assessment and the potential benefit of early lipid-lowering intervention. These data could be useful for physician–patient communication about primary prevention strategies.’