Good health, youth no longer provide immunity from heart disease

January 14th, 2009 - 5:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 14 (IANS) Healthy young adults are not really immune from heart disease; they are likely to carry a higher risk of cardiac complications over their lifetimes, according to new findings. The findings 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 Jarett Berry, assistant professor of internal medicine at University of Texas Southwestern (UT-S) and co-author of the study.

Using current 10-year risk assessment data, more than 90 percent of patients aged 50 years 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 build-up 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,” 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, said an UT-S release.

“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,” 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.”

The study is scheduled for publication in the Jan 26 issue of the journal Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

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