People Under 50 Aren't Safe From Heart Attacks
WebMD News Archive
Current guidelines recommend that patients and doctors strive for an LDL
[the so-called "bad" cholesterol] level of less than 160 -- or 130 if
the person has two other risk factors, such as diabetes, family history, or
smoking. In people who already have heart disease, the LDL should be less than
100, to help prevent a heart attack or further blockage. If these guidelines
cannot be met with diet and exercise, medication may be necessary.
"The best way to prevent heart disease is to target all risk factors:
smoking, obesity, a sedentary life, [high blood pressure]. ... It's not LDL
alone," says Akosah. Interestingly, a significant number of the people
admitted to the hospital in this study had not had their blood tested for
cholesterol. The study's authors say this suggests a missed opportunity for
"[Akosah] certainly raises an important point that [heart] disease
starts a lot earlier than we thought," Charles Cannon, MBChB, FACC, tells
WebMD. Cannon, an interventional cardiologist at the University of Oregon
Health Sciences University in Portland, reviewed the study for WebMD. Doctors
should be aware of the risk factors and "treat them as aggressively as you
Michael Criqui, MD, tells WebMD that
it is important for doctors to look at their patients' HDL, or 'good,'
cholesterol as well as the 'bad' LDL type. "HDL is critical," says
Criqui, who served on an American Heart Association task force on risk
reduction and is professor and vice chairman of the department of family and
preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego, School of
"Risk factors do count. "
Criqui says. "The most totally preventable problem of all is cigarette
smoking. In this study ... 60% of those with [heart] disease smoked. That's
"If you do not want to develop
[heart] disease before you're 50 years old, you need to be aware of your
cholesterol and your HDL," Criqui says. "You need to not be obese ...
to not smoke, to control your weight ... to avoid early diabetes and [high
"The only risk factors on this
list you can't do anything about is being a male and family history. But you
can modify your risk."