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Ann Fam Med. 2010 Jul-Aug;8(4):327-33. doi: 10.1370/afm.1137.

Prevalence of coronary heart disease risk factors and screening for high cholesterol levels among young adults, United States, 1999-2006.

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  • 1Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia 30341, USA.



Previous studies have reported low rates of screening for high cholesterol levels among young adults in the United States. Although recommendations for screening young adults without risk factors for coronary heart disease (CHD) differ, all guidelines recommend screening adults with CHD, CHD equivalents, or 1 or more CHD risk factors. This study examined national prevalence of CHD risk factors and compliance with the cholesterol screening guidelines among young adults.


National estimates were obtained using results for 2,587 young adults (men aged 20 to 35 years; women aged 20 to 45 years) from the 1999-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. We defined high low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) as levels higher than the goal specific for each CHD risk category outlined in the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III guidelines.


About 59% of young adults had CHD or CHD equivalents, or 1 or more of the following CHD risk factors: family history of early CHD, smoking, hypertension, or obesity. In our study, the overall screening rate in this population was less than 50%. Moreover, no significant difference in screening rates between young adults with no risk factors and their counterparts with 1 or more risk factors was found even after adjustment for sociodemographic and health care factors. Approximately 65% of young adults with CHD or CHD equivalents, 26% of young adults with 2 or more risk factors, 12% of young adults with 1 risk factor, and 7% with no risk factor had a high level of LDL-C.


CHD risk factors are common in young adults but do not appear to alter screening rates. Improvement of risk assessment and management for cardiovascular disease among young adults is warranted.

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