High blood pressure and cholesterol in young adulthood could lead to an increased risk of heart disease later in life, according to scientists.
They say this is regardless of exposure to these risk factors in later life.
Using data from more than 36,000 people, researchers modelled complete risk factor trajectories starting at age 18 through follow-up.
They used that information to estimate the independent associations of risk factor exposures during young adulthood – ages 18-39, and later adulthood – age 40 and above, with subsequent risk of coronary heart disease, heart failure and stroke.
Researchers calculated averages of systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol exposure levels for younger and older adults.
Elevated LDL during young adulthood was associated with a 64% greater risk of coronary heart disease, independent of later life exposures.
According to the data, high SBP and DBP in young adulthood were independently associated with a 37% and 21% increased risk of heart failure, respectively.
Although no young adult exposures were found to be independently associated with stroke, increased levels of high later life SBP or DBP were strong predictors.
Andrew Moran, associate professor at Columbia University, said: “Our results add to accumulating evidence that young adulthood is a critical period when high blood pressure or cholesterol are particularly harmful.
“Maintaining optimal levels of blood pressure and LDL cholesterol throughout young adulthood could yield substantial lifetime cardiovascular disease prevention benefits.”
The researchers suggest the implementation of programmes targeting individual young adults that are web-based, patient-centred and mobile.
This is to account for the fact this age group may discount the importance of their future heart disease risk.
The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
A total of 36,030 participants from six community-based, prospective cohort studies were included in the analysis.
Over a follow-up period of 17 years, there were 4,570 incident coronary heart disease (CHD) events, 5,119 heart failure events and 2,862 stroke events.