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Many Young Adults with Elevated Cholesterol Not Screened, Study Finds
While less than half of young adults are not getting cholesterol screening, up to a quarter of them have elevated cholesterol, a CDC study shows.
The report, Prevalence of Coronary Heart Disease Risk Factors and Screening for High Cholesterol Levels Among Young Adults, United States, 1999‚Äì2006, shows that the rate of elevated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) among young adults ranges from 7% to 26%. However, the screening rate among this age group is less than 50%, regardless of the number of individual risk factors. The study is published in the July-August 2010 issue Annals of Family Medicine.
According to CDC, while preventive guidelines for cholesterol screening among young adults differ, experts agree on the need to screen young adults who are at increased risk of coronary heart disease. Elevated LDL-C is a leading cause of heart disease.
Approximately 55% of American young adults (men aged 20 to 35 years, women aged 20 to 45 years) have at least one risk factor for coronary heart disease, such as high blood pressure, smoking, family history, or obesity, the report says. “What’s surprising and, quite frankly, rather concerning, is that we are doing such a poor job of identifying young adults in America who have elevated LDL-C,” said Dr Elena Kuklina, a CDC nutritional epidemiologist and lead author of the study, in a written statement. “Young men and women experience a high burden of risk factors for heart disease, the nation’s leading cause of mortality.”
The CDC study found elevated LDL-C levels in 7% of young adults with no other risk factors, 12% with one other risk factor, and 26% with two or more other risk factors.
The study examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which explores the health and nutritional status of about 6,000 participants every year. Researchers analyzed results for 2,587 young adults. Elevated LDL-C was defined as levels higher than the goal specified for each heart disease risk category outlined in the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III guidelines.