Five childhood risk factors that predict stroke and heart attacks in adulthood have been identified after being tracked by the world’s largest cardiovascular study.
The research that looked at half a century of data found body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides – a type of fat found in blood – and youth smoking, were clinically linked with heart disease.
The study conducted by the International Childhood Cardiovascular Consortium and the Murdoch Children Research Institute (MCRI), in Australia studied 38,000 people from Australia, Finland and the US, aged three to 19 for a period of 35-50 years.
They found that the risk factors were clinically linked with cardiovascular events from as early as 40 years of age.
Senior study author Professor Terence Dwyer said: “Despite the effect medical and surgical care has had on treating heart disease, the impact will depend on effective preventive strategies.
“We knew the potential benefits to human health at the end could be very substantial.
“Longitudinal studies like these have been hampered by a lack of inclusion of comprehensive childhood data around body measurements, blood pressure, and blood lipids and a failure to follow-up at ages when cardiovascular disease becomes common.
“Studying early life influences on disease has always been put in the too hard basket.
“But researchers took up this challenge because we knew the potential benefits to human health at the end could be very substantial.”
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, confirms that prevention should begin in childhood with the five risk factors predictors of fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events.
Prof Dwyer added: “Five risks, individually or in combination, present in childhood were predictors of fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events.
“Children as young as five already showed early signs of fatty deposits in arteries.
“This new evidence justified a greater emphasis on programs to prevent the development of these risk factors in children.
“While interventions in adulthood like improving diet, quitting smoking, being more active, and taking appropriate medications to reduce risk factors are helpful, it is likely that there is much more that can be done during childhood and adolescence to reduce lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease.”