Disease Proof

Heart Disease: A Young Risk?

So many of us think heart disease is just a middle-aged malady. Not so. In Disease-Proof Your Child, Dr. Fuhrman insists heart disease starts young. Don’t believe it? Here’s an excerpt from the book:
There is considerable evidence that the lipoprotein abnormalities (high LDL and low HDL) that are linked to heart attack deaths in adulthood begin to develop in early childhood and that higher cholesterol levels eventually get “set” by early food habits.1 What we eat during our childhood affects our lifetime cholesterol levels. For many, changing the diet to a plant-based, low-saturated-fat diet in later life does not result in the favorable cholesterol levels that would have been seen if the dietary improvements were started much earlier in life.


As a result of the heart-unfriendly diet, blood vessel damage begins early. Not only does the development of coronary atherosclerosis develop in childhood, but earlier development of atherosclerosis and higher serum cholesterol levels in childhood result in a significantly higher risk of premature sudden death relatively early in life. Sometimes the effects of childhood dietary abuses can be seen relatively early, with premature death or a heart attack at a young age.

When we study people who died young of coronary artery disease, we find that the highest risk of an earlier death occurs in those who were above average weight in childhood.2 Findings from the famous Bogalusa Heart Study show that a high saturated fat intake early in life is strongly predictive of later heart disease burden and the higher blood pressure in childhood and adolescence is powerfully predictive of cardiovascular death in adulthood.3
The Cardio Blog was pretty shocked to find this out too. Check out this post, Heart disease begins earlier than you think:
Pop quiz: at what age do you need to start worrying about heart disease? This is a question that is especially interesting to me, because, at nearly 27, I often think that health problems are a long way off and I can live my life how I please without suffering the consequences.


But I'm wayyyyyy off. Heart disease gets it's start in childhood! Yet because the effects don't become apparent until middle age, people thing that's when it begins. Wrong. Middle age is merely when your bad habits start to show themselves in the form of heart attacks.
1. Vikari JS, Raitakari OT, Simell O. Nutritional influences on lipids and future atherosclerosis beginning prenatally and during childhood. Curr Opin Lipidol 2002;13(1):11-18.

2. Eriksson JG, Forsen T, Tuomilehto J, et al. Catch-up growth in childhood and death from coronary heart disease: longitudinal study. BMJ 1999;318(7181):427-431.

3. Berenson GS, Srinivasan SR, Nicklas TA. Atherosclerosis: a nutritional disease of childhood. Bogalusa Heart Study. AM J Cardiol 1998;82(10B):22T-29T. Berenson GS. Childhood risk factors predict adult risk associated with subclinical cardiovascular disease. The Bolgulusa Heart Study. Am J Cardiol 2002;90(10C):3L-7L. Vos LE, Orien A, Uiterwaal C, et al. Adolescent blood pressure and blood pressure tracking into young adulthood are related to subclinical atherosclerosis: the atherosclerosis risk in young adults (ARYA) study. Am J Hypertens 2003 16(7):549-555.
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