(CNN) – New studies are showing that young adults should be thinking about their cholesterol levels early to ward off dangerous heart disease later.
As a young woman Nicole Diaz Nelson was very surprised when her doctor gave her some unwanted and unexpected news.
“I found out I had high cholesterol about two years ago. I was completely shocked because I was in my mid-20s and I had been vegetarian for a long time,” Nelson said.
Nelson is lucky she found out as early as she did, because recent students are showing that having high cholesterol early on can put you at a much greater risk for having heart problems when you’re older.
“So specifically for every 10 years a person has high cholesterol by the time they are 55, their future risk of heart disease was increased about a third,” said Dr. Ann Marie Navar, a cardiology fellow at Duke University.
Navar said young adults should be screened for high cholesterol and then have repeat screenings every five years if risk factors change.
Diet and exercise are the main lifestyle changes that can be made at any age, but for those with very high levels of cholesterol, medicine might be needed to keep it in check.
Your doctor can test your cholesterol levels during regular check-ups, but many local pharmacies also offer the tests for free or at a very low cost as part of a total health screening.
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