Atherosclerosis develops gradually and there may not be any symptoms until an artery is so narrowed that it cannot supply adequate blood to your organs and tissues.

High cholesterol may be present even in healthy young adults without a weight problem.

Even if you’re of normal weight, you may not be as healthy as you think.

Many young adults who are apparently healthy and don’t have a weight problem may have a build-up of fat and cholesterol in the walls of their arteries – a condition called atherosclerosis – which puts them at a higher risk of developing heart disease and/or stroke later in life.

Once thought to only afflict older people, this hidden thickening of arteries is now being observed in younger and otherwise healthy adults.

Dr Tan Hong Chang​, Consultant, Depart​ment of Endocrinology, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth​ group, explains: “Atherosclerosis occurs when cholesterol, fat and other substances build up in the arteries over the years and form hard structures known as plaque.”

When this happens, blood flow to vital organs could​ be restricted. This plaque can also burst, causing a blood clot,” Dr Tan adds.

Atherosclerosis develops gradually and there may not be any symptoms until an artery is so narrowed that it cannot supply adequate blood to your organs and tissues. Symptoms of moderate-to-severe atherosclerosis depend on which arteries are affected. Atherosclerosis could affect the arteries of the heart, brain, arms or legs.

“When a blood clot completely blocks the artery or even breaks apart, it can cause a heart attack or stroke which can be debilitating or even fatal,” warns Dr Tan.

High cholesterol & atherosclerosis - are you at risk?

High cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for atherosclerosis. While it is strongly recommended that clinicians routinely screen men and women aged 40 years and older for lipid disorders, younger adults (aged 18 and older) should also be screened in the presence of any of the following risk factors:

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • A family history of cardiovascular disease (heart disease) before the age of 50 in male relatives, and before 60 in female relatives
  • A family history suggestive of familial hyperlipidaemia (abnormally high levels of lipids in the blood)
  • Multiple coronary artery disease ri​sk factors (eg. tobacco usage, hypertension, obesity)

Read on for 7 tips to prevent heart a​ttack​.

Ref: T12