Home Medizin Erhöhte Cholesterinwerte im Jugendalter sind mit einer frühen Herzschädigung verbunden

Erhöhte Cholesterinwerte im Jugendalter sind mit einer frühen Herzschädigung verbunden

von NFI Redaktion

Heart diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide. Elevated cholesterol levels and dyslipidemia in children and adolescents increase the risk of premature death in their mid-40s and subclinical atherosclerosis in their mid-20s. Among teenagers without genetic predisposition for elevated cholesterol levels, the prevalence of high cholesterol and dyslipidemia is 20%, rising to 25% by their mid-20s.

Increased cholesterol levels in adolescence linked to early heart damage

Elevated cholesterol levels in adolescence can lead to heart damage in young adults. However, light physical activity can significantly decrease cholesterol levels. A cholesterol pass for adolescents, similar to a vaccination record, documents cholesterol levels during a primary health center visit every ten years. Image credit: Andrew Agbaje.

The current study used data from the „Children of the 90’s“ cohort at the University of Bristol, also known as the „Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children.“ The analyses included a total of 1,595 adolescents, 640 males, and 955 females, who were initially 17 years old and were followed up to the age of 24. Cholesterol levels and signs of heart damage were assessed at the beginning and during the follow-up. Signs of heart structural damage included left ventricular hypertrophy and high relative wall thickness, while signs of heart function damage included left ventricular diastolic dysfunction and increased left ventricular filling pressure.

With comprehensive control of fat mass, muscle mass, insulin, glucose, inflammation, blood pressure, smoking status, sedentary time, physical activity, socioeconomic status, and family history of cardiovascular diseases, and using adult thresholds for diagnosing heart damage, the study observed that elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and total cholesterol increased the risk of premature heart damage by 18-20%. Elevated triglycerides doubled and tripled the risk of early structural and functional heart damage during the seven-year follow-up.

The results showed that both men and women were equally affected and that normal weight and blood pressure did not protect the heart from the negative consequences of increased cholesterol levels. It was found that elevated cholesterol levels directly contributed 30% to heart damage, while increased fat mass and blood pressure indirectly contributed 40%. The remaining 30% could be explained by genetics and sedentary time.

„Health guidelines generally recommend cholesterol screening at the age of 40. However, we are now seeing the first evidence of the catastrophic effects of elevated cholesterol levels on the heart more than two decades earlier. Waiting until the age of 40 could lead to one in five adults developing avoidable heart problems that are very costly to treat.“

Andrew Agbaje, award-winning physician and pediatric clinical epidemiologist, University of Eastern Finland

We have recently found that prolonged sitting time since childhood contributes to 70% of the increase in cholesterol levels before the mid-20s and that light physical activity can completely reverse elevated cholesterol levels and dyslipidemia. In summary, these results suggest that lack of exercise is the cause of health problems, and lack of exercise in children and adolescents is a one-way street to cardiovascular diseases and premature death.”

To reduce the risk of dyslipidemia, experts have proposed universal pediatric lipid screening, including the possible introduction of a ‚Cholesterol Pass for Adolescents‘ to track the rise in cholesterol levels and initiate timely preventive treatment in the young population. Our recent studies now provide stronger evidence that can contribute to a healthier heart. Therefore, health experts, pediatricians, parents, and health policymakers should promote early cholesterol level screening, especially in adolescence,“ Agbaje continued.

The research group of Dr. Agbaje (urFIT Kid) is supported by research grants from the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation, the Central Fund of the Finnish Cultural Foundation, the North Savo Regional Fund of the Finnish Cultural Foundation, the Orion Research Foundation, the Aarne Koskelo Foundation, the Antti and Tyyne Soininen Foundation, the Paulo Foundation, the Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation, the Paavo Nurmi Foundation, the Finnish Foundation for Cardiovascular Research, the Ida Montin Foundation, the Kuopio University Foundation, the Foundation for Pediatric Research, and the Alfred Kordelin Foundation.


Universität Ostfinnland


Agbaje, AO (2023). Steigende Lipide mit dem Risiko einer Verschlechterung des Herzschadens bei 1595 Jugendlichen: Eine 7-jährige Längsschnitt- und Mediationsstudie. Arteriosklerose. doi.org/10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2023.117440.

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