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Minor risk factors lead to major heart problems

Category: Heart Health and Cholesterol

Unhealthy cholesterol test results alone are generally not enough for a person to be considered at risk for experiencing a heart attack or stroke in the near term. However, new research suggests that one or two minor cardiovascular risk factors may increase a person's odds of heart complications over the long-term.

Researchers from Northwestern University tracked the cardiovascular health of more than 250,000 individuals over the course of a 50-year period. The results showed that many individuals who would have initially been considered to be a low risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke ended up experiencing a cardiovascular event many years later.

The findings could have implications for the manner in which doctors treat heart disease, the researchers said. Physicians typically calculate a person's 10-year risk of experiencing a heart or stroke and base their recommendations on this. However, the team said their findings indicate that medical professionals may need to take a more long-range view.

In particular, the researchers said that the healthcare system should focus on prevention by encouraging individuals to pursue healthy lifestyles. This may be the best way to control long-term risk factors.

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