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Study identifies five childhood risk factors that may predict cardiovascular disease

Experts say blood pressure and cholesterol are important factors in long-term heart health

Heart health concept with stethoscope
Photo (c) krisanapong detraphiphat - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from Murdoch Children’s Research Institute identified five childhood risk factors that may predict future cardiovascular disease. 

According to their findings, youth smoking, high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, high body mass index scores, and high cholesterol levels during childhood were all linked with a higher risk of heart disease into adulthood. 

“Despite the effect medical and surgical care has had on treating heart disease, the major impact will depend on effective preventive strategies,” said researcher Terency Dwyer. “This study confirms that prevention should begin in childhood. 

Identifying preventative strategies

The researchers analyzed data from nearly 40,000 participants from Australia, Finland, and the U.S. for the study. Participants started the study between the ages of 3 and 19 years old, and the team tracked their health outcomes for 35 to 50 years. 

Ultimately, the researchers found five major risk factors that either individually, or in combination with each other, significantly impact the likelihood of cardiovascular disease. Having high blood pressure, high BMI scores, high cholesterol, high triglyceride levels, or smoking during childhood were all associated with an increased risk of heart concerns, including heart attack and stroke. 

The researchers explained that these heart health risks presented themselves as early as 40 years old. With this information, the team hopes more work will be done to prevent these risk factors and promote long-term health during childhood and beyond. 

“While this evidence had not been available previously, the findings were not entirely surprising as it had been known for some time that children as young as five already showed signs of fatty deposits in arteries. This new evidence justified a greater emphasis on programs to prevent the development of these risk factors in children. Clinicians and public health professionals should now start to focus on how this might best be achieved," Dwyer said. 

“While interventions in adulthood like improving diet, quitting smoking, and being more active, and taking appropriate medications to reduce risk factors are helpful, it is likely that there is much more that can be done during childhood and adolescence to reduce lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease.” 

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