Background: Coronary heart disease (CHD) and the related diseases due to atherosclerosis continue to be major public health problems in the industrialized countries and are likely to become serious problems in the developing countries. Treatment of end stage disease has improved, and risk factor modification has succeeded in reducing risk among adults. However, the age at which to begin risk factor control for long-range primary prevention is controversial.
Methods: A multicenter cooperative study, Pathobiological Determinants of Atheroscle-rosis in Youth (PDAY), was organized in 1985 to examine the relationship of the risk factors for adult CHD to preclinical atherosclerotic lesions in youth. Fourteen participating centers collected arteries, blood, other tissue, and data from 3,000 persons 15-34 years of age who died from external causes and were autopsied in forensic laboratories. Central laboratories evaluated atherosclerosis in the aorta and coronary arteries, measured lipoproteins and thio-cyanate (for smoking) in serum, glycohemo-globin in red blood cells (for blood glucose), thickness of small renal arteries (for hypertension), and body mass index (for obesity). The data were analyzed to determine the progression of atherosclerosis with age in both sexes and the association of the risk factors with atherosclerotic lesions.
Results: Raised lesions of the coronary arteries, the advanced lesions of atherosclerosis that lead directly to CHD, are associated positively with non-HDL cholesterol concentration, hypertension, obesity (in men), and blood glucose concentration; and inversely, with HDL cholesterol concentration. Smoking affects predominantly the abdominal aorta.
Conclusions: These results suggest that long-range prevention of CHD should begin in adolescence or at least in young adulthood with control of the major established risk factors for adult CHD.