Dallas, TX—Even in young, healthy people, LDL cholesterol levels are important. For a low-risk person, researchers discovered that LDL levels were independently associated with increased risk of dying of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

In fact, a report in the journal Circulation noted that, compared with participants in a recent study who had LDL readings of under 100 mg/dL, those with LDL levels in the range of 100 to 159 mg/dL had a 30% to 40% higher risk of CVD mortality.

What that means, according to the research conducted by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the Veteran’s Affairs North Texas Healthcare System, both in Dallas, is that controlling high LDL is important, even in people believed to be at low 10-year risk for heart disease.

The study sought to answer the question of whether that cohort should begin pursuing efforts to lower elevated cholesterol earlier through lifestyle changes, or even cholesterol-lowering medication. To do that, researchers focused on associations between LDL cholesterol and non-HDL cholesterol thresholds and CVD and CVD mortality.

“Our study demonstrates that having a low 10-year estimated cardiovascular disease risk does not eliminate the risk posed by elevated LDL over the course of a lifetime,” explained author Shuaib Abdullah, MD, who also worked in collaboration with investigators from the Dallas-based Cooper Institute. “Those with low risk should pursue lifestyle interventions, such as diet and exercise, to achieve LDL levels as low as possible, preferably under 100 mg/dL. Limiting saturated fat intake, maintaining a healthy weight, discontinuing tobacco use, and increasing aerobic exercise should apply to everyone.”

While clinical trials usually include participants at moderate or high risk for CVD, this observational study focused instead on 36,375 young, relatively healthy people included in the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study. None of the cohort, which was followed for 27 years, had diabetes or CVD.

However, researchers determined that the long-term risk of CVD was affected by LDL levels, even in that group. They pointed out that participants with LDL levels of 160 mg/dL or higher had a 70% to 90% increased risk of CVD death versus those who had LDL readings of under 100 mg/dL.

Among the participants, who were 72% male with an average age of 42, 1,086 died from CVD and 598 died from coronary heart disease, the report said.
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