London Medical Laboratory released new analysis last month revealing that over half of Brits (54%) have high cholesterol. Further analysis of the latest research reveals a staggering 61% of Generation Xs (currently 42-58-year-olds) and 43% of Millennials (currently 27-42-year-olds) are at risk of blocked arteries.
Dr Avinash Hari Narayanan (MBChB), Clinical Lead at London Medical Laboratory, says: ‘Historically, it’s always been older people who were believed to have high cholesterol, with levels peaking in their 60s and 70s. Thanks to Our Future Health’s major new research programme, we now know that millions of far younger people are most at risk.
‘High cholesterol is a major underlying cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD), the leading cause of death worldwide, often leading to heart attacks and strokes. In England, high cholesterol leads to over 7% of all deaths.
‘It’s likely that fast foods and home food deliveries are playing a big role in pushing up LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels among Gen Xs and Millennials.
These age groups have been brought up in the era of microwave meals and Deliveroo food deliveries. Older Brits, in contrast, are less in the habit of ordering super-fast foods high in saturated fats, which means their cholesterol levels are proportionately lower than many younger age groups. Only 39% of over-80s have high cholesterol, as opposed to 67% of 50-somethings. That’s a shocking reversal of historical trends.
‘It’s also surprising that fewer Brits in their 60s (63%) have higher cholesterol than those in their 50s. It means Britain’s so-called Generation X (people born between 1965–1980) are now at higher risk of blocked arteries than Baby Boomers, the post-war generation bought up on fewer high-fat foods.
Here’s the full results showing the prevalence of high cholesterol by age:
- 20-29: 27%
- 30-39: 43%
- 40-49: 57%
- 50-59: 67%
- 60-69: 63%
- 70-79: 48%
- 80 and over: 39%
‘It now appears that anyone of any age eating too many processed foods containing saturated fat is in danger of having high cholesterol levels. Foods partially responsible for increasing LDL (low-density lipoprotein) levels, traditionally known as “bad” cholesterol, include:
- Red meat, including beef, pork and lamb, as well as processed meats such as sausage
- Full-fat dairy, including cream, whole milk and butter
- Baked goods and sweets
- Fried foods
- Tropical oils such as palm oil and coconut oil
‘Clearly, there is an urgent need for increased cholesterol level testing to rapidly identify who is at risk, across all age groups. With GP surgeries extremely busy at this time of year, it’s important to recognise that there are alternatives. The most common options are finger-prick cholesterol blood tests, which can be taken at home or at many local community pharmacies.