Heart disease risks among younger adults on the rise

A group of young adults walks on a sidewalk.

The number of preventable deaths due to cardiovascular disease has plateaued over the past decade. To learn about how these trends manifested through risk factors among young adults, researchers assessed data collected from 12,924 adults, ages 20-44, between 2009 and 2020.

They found that the number of young adults with high cholesterol decreased from 40.5% to 36.1% during this period. However, the number of young adults with diabetes increased from 3% to 4.1%, while obesity rates increased from 32.7% to 40.9%. High blood pressure rates, which affect about 1 in 10 young adults, did not significantly change from 2009-2010.

To help younger adults offset risks for having a future heart attack, stroke, or developing heart failure, researchers explained multiple efforts are needed. This includes looking at ways to help young adults, especially those disproportionately affected by heart disease risks, take steps to support their health. Examples noted included ongoing support for community-focused programs, such as blood pressure screenings within barbershops, bringing green spaces to urban environments to support movement, and strengthening efforts to ensure children and young adults have access to health insurance and heart-healthy foods.

The NHLBI-supported research and an accompanying editorial published in JAMA.