For a healthy heart, begin cholesterol screening while you're in your 20s

If you think heart disease is a disease of the middle-aged, think again. Experts recommend that cholesterol screening should begin as early as age 20 because it is a key indicator of heart-attack risk, and that the screening should be repeated at least once every five years.

Atherosclerosis begins early, says Dr. Anand Rohatgi, a cardiologist with UT Southwestern Medical Center’s program in preventive cardiology. Even young adults and teens can show evidence of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

If early screening reveals low levels of good cholesterol (high-density lipoproteins) or moderately high levels of bad cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins), counseling can provide help to modify lifestyles. Those who fall into this category should be re-evaluated every one or two years.

“Simple measures that can reduce cholesterol levels include decreasing the amount of saturated fat to less than 7 percent of total calories consumed each day,” Dr. Rohatgi says. “Also, increasing the amount of soluble fiber by just 5 to 10 grams daily and limiting cholesterol intake to less than 200 milligrams per day are helpful.”

Media Contact: Katherine Morales

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