Why Low Cholesterol Early in Life Is Vital for Heart Health

Some of us are lucky enough to have doctors who track our cholesterol from the time we're young. But for many, we don’t think much about our cholesterol levels until health effects start cropping up later in life. As young adults most of us are too worried about enjoying life to be counting our egg and meat intake and depriving ourselves of rich foods. And many of us take the approach that young people should "enjoy it now" because the time for a more moderate approach is fast approaching.

Well, we may have been short-sighted. According to new research, many of us could be sustaining silent damage for decades before middle age, priming ourselves for cardiac events later in life. And we don't even realize it. We have the startling details.

The Effects of Cholesterol

While we get a whole set of numbers after the blood test, doctors aren’t as concerned with our total cholesterol levels as they are with our amounts of “bad” cholesterol, which is called our low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C). High LDL-C levels in the blood can contribute to the hardening and clogging of the arteries, and over time, these issues turn into various forms of cardiovascular disease.

According to the American Heart Association, individuals can react differently to dietary cholesterol consumption, with “hypo- and hyper-responders” affecting overall averages. So, while one person might be able to eat all the eggs, lobster and chicken-fried steak they want without changing their blood LDL-C numbers, another person might see massive spikes with far more conservative intakes. That's why it's so important to know your individual numbers rather than to go off of what you eat.

Considering Cumulative Effects

We may unexpectedly struggle with our cholesterol levels as we find ourselves firmly in middle age, although most of us probably weren’t so aware of our numbers back when we were younger. But maybe we should've been.

A study recently published in The Lancet suggests that, at least for some of us, the struggle may begin much earlier than previously believed.

According to the findings, even small elevations in LDL-C can increase long-term cardiovascular risks, so the earlier those at risk take measures to rein in their levels, the better off they’re likely to be decades later. Many of us could have started building up plaques in our arteries for a lot longer than even our doctors may have realized. The buildup can be cumulative, so early intervention can be vital to maintaining good heart health as we reach middle age and beyond.

Researchers found a 50% reduction in LDL-C before middle age may be one of the greatest gifts a person can give to their future cardiovascular health. A woman with multiple risk factors could reduce her heart attack risks by about 12%; men in similar risk groups may be able to cut theirs by as much as 22.4%.

Our bodies are complicated and we may not see how all of our choices affect us until the repercussions are too great to ignore. At any age, now is the time to make healthy changes. Some damage may be impossible to reverse, but we can still minimize how much we add to it moving forward. Just getting started? A chat with a healthcare provider or nutritionist can help with finding some effective strategies.

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10/27/2022 4:00:00 AM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
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