People who do not have the traditional risk factors for atherosclerosis or build-up of fat in artery walls show discrete signs for it, new research says.
“The proportion of young, apparently healthy adults who are presumably the picture of health who already have atherosclerosis is staggering,” says Eric Larose, interventional cardiologist at the Institut universitaire de cardiologie et de pneumologie de Quebec.
Atherosclerosis can eventually lead to serious problems including heart disease, stroke, or even death, according to a statement from the institute. The study enrolled 168 young adults (aged between 18 and 35 years), half male and half female, who had no known cardiovascular disease or risk factors such as family history of premature heart disease, diabetes, smoking, high blood cholesterol, or high blood pressure.
Researchers found that although a large proportion of subjects didn’t have traditional risk factors for atherosclerosis, they did have discrete signs: greater waist circumference, and visceral fat covering the internal organs within the chest and abdomen. Visceral fat is difficult to detect because it surrounds the organs deep inside the body, unlike the fat under our skin than can be easily detected in the mirror or with a pinch of the fingers.
“We know obesity is a bad thing,” says Larose, “but we’re dropping the ball on a large proportion of young adults who don’t meet traditional measures of obesity such as weight and BMI.” BMI is a height to weight ratio. The people with greater visceral fat will have greater atherosclerosis, even if they are young and apparently healthy and could benefit from preventive lifestyle measures.
The study was presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2011, co-hosted by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society.