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Healthy lifestyle in youth curbs adulthood cholesterol problems

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Healthy eating, exercise and other lifestyle habits in youth can lower the chances of cholesterol problems in adulthood finds a new report.

Researchers say even when risk factors for unfavorable cholesterol levels appear during youth, improving lifestyle at a young age can carry through to adulthood, keeping good (HDL) cholesterol numbers higher and triglyceride and total cholesterol numbers lower.

In the study that included 539 young adults whose cholesterol level was measured at age 9, 12 or 15 in 1985 and the approximately 20 years later, between 2004 and 2006. Triglyceride levels above 200 mg/dl, total cholesterol above 240 and HDL or good cholesterol less than 40 mg/dl was considered high risk.

The scientists also measured height and weight, skin fold thickness and waist circumference, also noting cardiorespiratory fitness levels and lifestyle behaviors such as smoking and socioeconomic factors during both evaluations.

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During follow-up, the authors say study participants at low risk during youth developed abnormal cholesterol levels from gaining body fat, smoking and lower levels of fitness.

"Using established cut points, we found that substantial proportions of individuals with high-risk blood lipid and lipoprotein levels at baseline no longer had high-risk levels at follow-up," the authors write. Those who did remain high-risk gained more body fat and were more likely to begin or continue smoking during the follow-up period.”

HDL cholesterol levels improved for study participants who made at least two healthy lifestyle changes between youth and adulthood, but those who made no improvements had double the prevalence of low HDL levels.

The authors note the study is important because it shows cholesterol levels can improve between youth and adulthood with healthy lifestyle changes. The findings also show a need for managing unfavorable cholesterol during youth that can carry into adulthood, raising the chances of cardiovascular disease.

Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine