There’s lots of talk in the news recently about “root causes”. Perhaps we could worry less if we did a better job of dealing with what starts it all?
As we get older, we worry about all sorts of physical ailments. Sometimes, we worry because we know there is a family history of one disease or another. Sometimes, we worry because we see our friends suffer from an ailment as they age. Sometimes, we just worry.
A family history is certainly a viable indicator of potential health problems as a person gets older. But there are some health issues which come about at an early age through stress, diet or childhood physical events, and if they are not checked, they can go undiagnosed until they are too far along to prevent, cure, or treat.
In the case of arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), the pathological condition behind our leading cause of misery and death, clinical studies show that improper diet or physical stress in children or young adults can initiate the conditions which lead to ASCVD as they age, That heart attack you are recently aware of in a friend or relative actually began early in their life.
A detailed health evaluation for teenagers or young adults might determine if the process has begun. Surprisingly, fatty streaks are often detected in young people, but only if tests are conducted to determine such conditions. If detected, cardiovascular issues can be addressed through diet and health practices which can reduce the harm that would otherwise arise later in life.
Studies conducted by autopsy on American soldiers killed in the Korean War, and later in the Vietnam War, showed that a high percentage had arteriosclerotic changes in their coronary arteries. These affected soldiers were as young as 19-25 years old.
A remarkable finding in studies from both wars is that the incidence of ASCVD indicators was much higher in American soldiers than in Asian ones. This is an indication that diet and lifestyle may play as much a role in the incidence of early ASCVD as does stress. Stress is a clear and obvious component of cardiovascular events, and it is no surprise that soldiers on both sides seeing action in war zones would suffer psychologically from such occurrence.
The colloquial thought that young people have strong hearts and can physically handle stress has some basis in fact, but that does not change the fact that young hearts can be impacted by both stress and diet, very early in life, creating an environment for ASCVD-associated heart attack and stroke later in life, and perhaps not as much later as one might think.
The effects of ASCVD include stroke, myocardial infarction, and other vascular diseases. These do tend to become evident in older people. But it is important to understand that early indicators of conditions leading to ASCVD can be imprinted upon adolescents due to factors associated with obesity, dyslipidemia, hypertension, stress, and smoking. Here is a sketch of the progression of the natural history by age. Notice the develpment of fibrous plaques by the mid-20s…
How to reduce ASCVD in adolescents and young adults
It is likely that any indication of atherosclerotic cardiovascular changes in adolescents and young adults will be minor. If so, they can be treated by early intervention, which should include a change of diet or lifestyle.
But that is only going to work if the younger person is tested properly for potential cardiovascular risks. So frequently it is up to a young person to take responsibility, or for a family member to encourage and ensure that consulting and testing takes place.
Research shows that young people who have fatty streaks in their coronary arteries are not necessarily going to eventually suffer from ASCVD. There are other factors involved. But fatty streaks are reversible just as much as they can be exacerbated, and proper diet and regular evaluations can lead to lower incidences of ASCVD later on in life.
There are people who are born with genetic conditions that promote ASCVD, and medical professionals should know what those conditions are in order to provide early intervention and treatment. Healthy Potentials, LLC, offers medical consulting and health coaching strategies for individuals of all types who need to consider the health status for themselves and those they care about.
Definitely, the younger you start the better. Don’t be tricked into believing you have 30 or 40 years to go before you need to begin to worry about a cardiovascular event. Many studies suggest there’s a high probability that’s an assumption that is clearly wrong.
All levels of our Programs and Membership Plans focus directly and sharply on identifying your risks of ASCVD and its associated conditions such as coronary artery disease, stroke, and other vascular diseases, and then taking steps to reduce those risks and tracking your progress over time. Join us now and get involved; the earlier, the better!