(HealthDay News) — Healthy lifestyle changes in young adults may reduce the risk of later development of coronary artery disease, according to research published in the July 1 issue of Circulation.

Bonnie Spring, PhD, of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and colleagues conducted a prospective cohort study involving 3,538 young adults aged 18–30 years at baseline. The authors sought to assess the effect of healthy lifestyle factors (HLFs) on risk of coronary artery disease 20 years later.

The researchers found that, at year 20, one or more HLFs, including not overweight/obese, low alcohol intake, healthy diet, physically active, and nonsmoker, were adopted by 25.3% of the young adults; 34.4% stayed the same; and 40.4% had fewer HLFs. Almost one-fifth (19.2%) had coronary artery calcification. Each increase in HLFs was associated with decreased risk of detectable coronary artery calcification (odds ratio [OR], 0.85; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.74–0.98) and lower intima-media thickness (carotid bulb β=−0.024; P=0.001). Each decrease in HLFs was associated with increased risk of detectable coronary artery calcification (OR, 1.17; 95% CI, 1.02–1.33) and greater intima-media thickness (carotid bulb β=+0.020; P<0.01).

“Healthy lifestyle changes during young adulthood are associated with decreased risk and unhealthy lifestyle changes are associated with increased risk for subclinical atherosclerosis in middle age,” the authors write.

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