CVD prevention offers positive long-term health benefits for patients of all ages

Currently CVD prevention in the young, or those with just a mild or moderate risk, is limited, but it can result in substantial benefits4. As atherosclerosis is a chronic, progressive disease usually initiated during the first 30 years of life, maintaining desirable LDL-cholesterol levels at an early stage, even from childhood, substantially delays or possibly prevents the onset of the disease7,9. This approach is associated with a markedly greater reduction in CVD risk than lowering already elevated LDL-cholesterol levels in middle age7,16. However, it should be considered never too late to take action to lower cholesterol levels.

So, how can LDL-cholesterol levels be maintained at optimal or desired levels throughout life without long-term drug use and adding to the burden on the healthcare system? Dietary habits and lifestyle factors need to be seriously considered; particularly as nutritional and behavioral changes have been shown to lower LDL-cholesterol levels by up to 20%17.

Cardiovascular disease is the result of a lifelong process and, as such, intervention strategies to reduce risk such as adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle should begin as early in life as possible

Dietary modifications should form the basis for CVD prevention

Furthermore, cohort studies demonstrate a clear link between a low total CVD risk profile (through lifestyle) and low CHD incidence. One example is a cohort study of 42,847 male US health professionals aged 40-75 years followed for a 16-year period during which a total of 2,183 incident coronary events were observed18. Results indicated that higher healthy lifestyle scores were associated with lower incidences of CHD. These low-risk scores were defined as:

  • absence of smoking
  • body mass index <25kg/m2
  • moderate-to-vigorous physical activity 30min/d
  • moderate alcohol consumption (5 to 30g/d)
  • eating a healthy, balanced diet18

In fact, 62% of coronary events in this cohort may have been prevented with better adherence to these five healthy lifestyle practices18. Furthermore, among men taking medication for hypertension or hypercholesterolemia, 57% of all coronary events may have been prevented with a low-risk lifestyle18.

Test your knowledge
When should intervention strategies for cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention be considered?
  1. Intervention strategies to reduce CVD risk should begin the earlier the better
  2. Intervention strategies to reduce CVD risk should begin after elevated LDL-cholesterol levels have been diagnosed
  3. Intervention strategies to reduce CVD risk should start in middle age independent of LDL-cholesterol levels
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