Belfast Telegraph

QUB 'confirms link' between cholesterol and killer conditions

Research: Professor Frank Kee
Research: Professor Frank Kee
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

A strong link between cholesterol levels in the blood and the long-term risk for cardiovascular problems, such as heart disease and stroke in people aged under 45, has been discovered by researchers from Queen's University.

The study has been hailed as the most comprehensive analysis of long-term risk for cardiovascular disease related to non-high-density lipoprotein (non-HDL) cholesterol.

Professor Frank Kee, from the Centre for Public Health at Queen's University, explained that non-HDL is known as the "bad kind" of cholesterol and that previous studies have shown links between non-HDL and cardiovascular disease.

The study looked at data from almost 400,000 people across 19 countries and 38 studies.

The participants had no cardiovascular disease at the start of the study and were followed for up to 43-and-a-half years for the occurrence of a fatal or non-fatal coronary heart disease event or stroke between the years 1970 and 2013.

During the follow-up, there were 54,542 fatal or non-fatal cases of heart disease and stroke.

Using their data, the authors, among them researchers from international institutions, confirmed the long-term association between cholesterol levels and cardiovascular risk.

"Our research is the one of first studies to analyse data from hundreds of thousands of otherwise healthy participants over the span of several decades to assess the long-term risk of high levels of non-HDL cholesterol in the blood," explained Professor Kee.

"We are also among the first to provide robust estimates of the risks to young people aged under 45 years with high non-HDL cholesterol levels in their blood."

Looking at the data for all age groups and both sexes, researchers found that the risk for a cardiovascular event decreased continuously with decreasing non-HDL levels and the risk was lowest for those individuals with the lowest levels.

Using the model to estimate the risk of a cardiovascular event by the age of 75 years for different age groups, researchers discovered that the highest long-term risks of cardiovascular disease were seen in individuals younger than 45 years of age.

The authors said that intervening early and intensively to reduce non-HDL cholesterol levels could potentially reverse early signs of atherosclerosis.

However, uncertainty remains about the extent to which levels should be used to make treatment recommendations, particularly in young people.

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