Childhood cholesterol levels may predict a person's risk of developing heart disease in adulthood, according to new research.
A new study finds childhood levels of low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, and body mass index (BMI) predict changes in carotid artery wall thickness in young adults. The carotid artery is located in the front of the neck and it transports blood from the heart to the brain. Thickening occurs when hard cholesterol substances, or plaques, are deposited in the walls of the arteries. These plaques cause hardening of the artery walls, making it difficult for blood to pass through them.
Researchers say ultrasounds are a reliable and noninvasive way to measure the carotid artery intima-media thickness (IMT) and assess risk of coronary artery disease. The study compared the association between carotid IMT measured in young adults and traditional cardiovascular risk factors measured in childhood, adulthood, or as a cumulative burden of each of the risk factors. They found childhood LDL levels and BMI are significant risk factors for having increased carotid IMT in adulthood. In adulthood, high LDL levels, high high-density lipoprotein levels, and high blood pressure are significant risk factors. Regarding the cumulative cardiovascular burdens since childhood, LDL and HDL levels are significant risk factors. Researchers say, LDL-C level was the most consistent risk factor in all three models.
Researchers speculate that elevated LDL levels and BMI are important risk factors early in life and may predict eventual heart disease risk. They say LDL levels measured in childhood, adulthood or as a cumulative burden since childhood are a consistent predictor of carotid IMT in young adults who are still too young to experience coronary events, like heart attacks. Researchers say that since both BMI and LDL levels can be modified, this study may lead to intervention in childhood to lower those levels in order to prevent future heart disease.