Northwestern study identifies heart disease risk factors

Daniel Schlessinger

A new study led by a Northwestern research team shows that increased risk factors for heart problems at any point in life will result in much higher risks of cardiovascular disease later in life. The article, published Jan. 26 in the New England Journal of Medicine, pooled data from 18 cohort studies and 257,384 white and black patients.

“We found that the presence of elevated levels of risk factors at all ages translated into markedly higher lifetime risks of cardiovascular disease across the lifespan,” the study authors said in the article.

Typically, studies evaluate risk of heart problems with a 10-year outlook, using white males as the predominant participants. The study authors decided to examine risk both over a longer period of time, with expanded demographics and in birth groups which are categorized by when people were born. Researchers measured participants’ risk factors at age 45, 55, 65 and 75 for each patient. These included diabetes, cholesterol level, smoking status and blood pressure.

The findings could have large public health effects, the study authors noted.

“The (findings) may be important in estimating the future burden of cardiovascular disease in the general population,” the article stated.

Now that scientists can see when risk factors typically start affecting cardiovascular health, doctors can focus on cardiovascular disease prevention rather than treatment, the study authors suggested.

– Daniel Schlessinger