Study Shows Heart Disease Risk Factors Can Start in Adolescents as Young as 15

Article excerpt

The blockages in arteries that can lead to a heart attack or sudden death appear to start forming early in life, in young adults and adolescents as young as 15, according to a recent study. Some teenagers and young adults with risk factors for heart disease--high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity, for example--have fatty plaques in their heart arteries indicating the earliest signs of atherosclerosis, while others are already in the more dangerous advanced stages, according to the study.

Researchers at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio, Texas, looked at the left coronary arteries (large blood vessels that supply blood to the heart muscle) from the autopsies of 760 men and women aged 15 to 34 who had died from an accident, murder, or suicide. Autopsies of American soldiers killed in combat during the Korean War first alerted researchers that the biological changes leading to heart attacks and stroke begin early in life. Autopsies of American casualties during the Vietnam War found similar trends. Despite decades of awareness, the trend continues. …