Researchers find that healthy, younger adults could be at risk for heart disease

January 12, 2009

Even younger adults who have few short-term risk factors for heart disease may have a higher risk of developing heart disease over their lifetimes, according to new findings by a UT Southwestern Medical Center researcher.

The findings, based on clinical studies and appearing in the Jan. 19 issue of the journal Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, suggest that traditional methods of identifying heart disease risk might not adequately identify patients who actually have a higher lifetime risk.

"We found that about half of individuals who are 50 years of age or younger and at low short-term risk for heart disease may not remain at low risk throughout their lives," said Dr. Jarett Berry, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and lead author of the study.

Using current 10-year risk assessment data, more than 90 percent of patients 50 years of age and younger are considered at low risk for heart disease. But when researchers added a lifetime risk model to the 10-year risk model, they found that about half of those with a low 10-year risk but high lifetime risk had a greater progression of heart disease, as measured by buildup of coronary artery calcium and thickening of the carotid artery.

The short-term (10-year) risk factors in the study were represented by the Framingham Risk Score, a tool typically used by physicians to assess risk for heart disease in patients. Risk factors listed on the assessment include cholesterol levels, blood pressure, smoking, age and gender.

"There is a discrepancy between short-term and long-term risk," Dr. Berry said. "People deemed low-risk, using the 10-year assessment, may not remain low-risk throughout their lives."

About 4,000 adults younger than 50 were divided according to their short-term risk for heart disease. For those with low short-term risk and without diabetes, the researchers also estimated the lifetime risk using factors such as blood cholesterol levels, smoking and blood pressure.

"When we compared the people with low short-term but high lifetime predicted risk with those individuals who had low short-term and low lifetime predicted risk, we found that the former group had a greater prevalence and progression of atherosclerosis," Dr. Berry said. "Thus, long-term risk estimates in younger patients may provide new information regarding risk prediction that is not usually available using only a 10-year risk model."

Dr. Berry added that because such an estimate has a profound association with subclinical atherosclerosis at this young age, it further supports the notion that long-term risk estimation could be a useful addition to current clinical practice. In particular, a long-term risk estimate could be used in combination with a short-term risk estimate to counsel patients more effectively, especially younger adults with risk factors for heart disease.

Source: UT Southwestern Medical Center

Explore further: Gravity, who needs it? NASA studies your body in space

Related Stories

Gravity, who needs it? NASA studies your body in space

November 18, 2015

What happens to your body in space? NASA's Human Research Program has been unfolding answers for over a decade. Space is a dangerous, unfriendly place. Isolated from family and friends, exposed to radiation that could increase ...

Human gene prevents regeneration in zebrafish

November 18, 2015

Regenerative medicine could one day allow physicians to correct congenital deformities, regrow damaged fingers, or even mend a broken heart. But to do it, they will have to reckon with the body's own anti-cancer security ...

Complex grammar of the genomic language

November 9, 2015

A new study from Sweden's Karolinska Institutet shows that the 'grammar' of the human genetic code is more complex than that of even the most intricately constructed spoken languages in the world. The findings, published ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

( -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.