Young Adults Ignore Cholesterol Warnings

FEBRUARY 01, 2006

According to data gathered since the first Minnesota Heart Survey (MHS) in 1980-1982, total cholesterol levels have decreased among middle-aged and older Americans but have leveled off, or in some cases increased, in the 25-to-34 age group. The MHS, which was conducted 5 times between 1980 and 2002, included ~5000 randomly selected adults at each testing. During that time, significant decreases in overall cholesterol levels were noted in all age groups except the 25-to 34-year-olds, who instead showed more increases than their older counterparts. The study also showed that more than half of those who participated who had cholesterol readings of > 200 mg/dL, classified as borderline "high-risk,"were not even aware of their condition.

Cholesterol readings for women in the younger age group increased by 1% between the studies done in 1990-1992 and 1995-1997, and again between 1995-1997 and 2000- 2002. Men in the same age group experienced a different trend, with a 4% increase during the first time frame, followed by a 3% decrease during the second period. One explanation offered for the decrease was that more older people are taking cholesterol-lowering drugs—their usage doubled in the over- 35 group—but it is "almost nonexistent for the 25-to 34-year-olds, who do not perceive the risk of"high cholesterol levels, according to researchers. The findings were published in the December 13, 2005, issue of Circulation.