American Heart Association Guidelines for Primary Prevention of Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease Beginning in Childhood
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Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of both death and disability in North America. Evidence that most cardiovascular disease is preventable led to development of the American Heart Association’s initial “Guide to the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease” in 1996 and the updated version in 2002. Those guidelines do not address prevention in children, a group for whom primary prevention should hold the most promise. Emergence of multiple lines of evidence with regard to the importance of known risk factors for atherosclerotic disease in children and young adults has provided the impetus to develop guidelines for primary prevention in this young population.
Pathological studies have shown that both the presence and extent of atherosclerotic lesions at autopsy after unexpected death of children and young adults correlate positively and significantly with established risk factors, namely low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, body mass index, and presence of cigarette smoking. Findings from the Bogalusa study indicate that as the number of cardiovascular risk factors increases, so does the pathological evidence for atherosclerosis in the aorta and coronary arteries beginning in early childhood. Electron beam computed tomography of coronary artery calcium and increased carotid artery intima-media thickness, an ultrasound measure of carotid artery atherosclerosis, have been evaluated in 29- to 39-year-olds monitored from 4 years of age. Significant risk predictors for coronary artery calcium were obesity and elevated blood pressure in childhood and increased body mass index and dyslipidemia as young adults. Multiple epidemiological studies have demonstrated a disturbing increase in the prevalence of obesity beginning in childhood, with at least 22% of 6- to 17-year-olds diagnosed as overweight. This is a cause for particular concern because of the strong association between obesity and hypertension, dyslipidemia, and type II diabetes mellitus beginning in childhood. Long-term follow-up studies have demonstrated …