Lifestyle changes, lower cholesterol earlier in life can help prevent heart disease, study says

(CNN) - A new study suggests people under 45 years old can help prevent future heart disease by lowering cholesterol.

Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans, with more than 600,000 dying from the disease in the U.S. every year. Lowering cholesterol may be the key to reducing heart disease risk.

The research published in the medical journal, The Lancet, suggests changing diet and exercise habits earlier in life or even talking to a doctor about taking statins may make future heart problems less likely.

The study tracked nearly 400,000 people in 19 countries between the ages of 30 to 85. Researchers found the group most at risk for heart problems related to non-HDL cholesterol later in life were under 45 years old.

The authors say if people under 45 years old cut their non-HDL cholesterol levels in half, they would reduce their risk of future heart problems significantly. Men reduced their risk from 29% to 6%. Women reduced their risk from 16% to 4%.

Other ways to lower risk of heart disease include maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol intake, avoiding smoking, and controlling blood pressure.

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