Harvard Heart Letter

A question of time?

When it comes to cholesterol, how long it's under control — and how early that control starts — is as important as how low it goes.

For the last few years, "How low can you go?" has been the big question driving cholesterol researchers. Elbowed to the sidelines is an equally important question: When should you start thinking about cholesterol?

New work on simple mutations that influence blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the so-called bad cholesterol, may turn the spotlight on this topic. The upshot of this work may be that we pay more attention to cholesterol levels before middle age, when damage to arteries is already under way. It may also lead to new strategies for keeping cholesterol in check.

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