Younger people are placed on cholesterol-lowering medications

Younger and younger people are being placed on cholesterol lowering drugs. There's a couple of reasons behind the surge in medication use.   One is unhealthy lifestyle and the other is family history of heart disease. KPLC's Laila Morcos explores the issue further.

Local cardiologists like Doctor Michael Turner are seeing more and more young adults with a high risk of heart disease being put on cholesterol lowering medications.

"There are two classes of young people who are being placed on medication." Dr. Turner says the first class of patients are children who are born with an extremely high cholesterol level. "They develop blockages in their arteries and develop heart attacks in their 20's and 30's," says Dr. Turner.  The second class of patients are those who have a history of smoking, high blood pressure or diseases like diabetes, or have a family history of heart problems. "If a parent or grandparent, aunts or uncles have heart attacks in their 30's or 40's, then it's very likely that some young members of those families will also have heart attacks in their 30's or 40's."

The drugs they're being placed on now are called statins which can lower heart attack risk five times more than behavioral changes alone. But Dr. Turner says you shouldn't maintain an unhealthy lifestyle either.

Plus, diagnostic tools are now available that can show your risk of heart problems 10 years before a heart attack ever occurs.

Women age 45 and men age 35 with a genetic history of heart problems or an unhealthy lifestyle should get tested for their 10 year risk of heart disease.