High Cholesterol Levels Prevalent Among American Indian Youth, Decade-Plus NIH Study Finds

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Washington, D.C. – A recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health reveals a concerning trend among American Indian youth, with over 70% of young adults aged 20-39 and 50% of teens facing elevated cholesterol levels, posing a significant risk for cardiovascular diseases.  The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, is part of the extensive Strong Heart Study, which monitored over 1,400 participants from 2001-2020.

According to researchers at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, the high prevalence of abnormal cholesterol levels, particularly high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, was unexpected, especially among adolescents. The study emphasizes the importance of early screening and intervention to mitigate cardiovascular risks, diabetes, or chronic liver disease prevalent in this demographic.

The findings underscore the high incidence of heart disease in American Indian adults—twice as high as the general U.S. population. Researchers advocate for increased screenings and culturally relevant educational efforts to bolster heart health among Native American youth. Early detection and lifestyle interventions are crucial, as evidenced by a subset of participants showing signs of plaque development in their arteries, a precursor to severe cardiovascular events.

This study highlights the critical need for ongoing healthcare engagement from childhood through adulthood, including annual cholesterol and blood sugar screenings. The NIH and the involved researchers stress the importance of such measures in preventing heart disease and ensuring a healthier future for American Indian populations.

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