Our Heart Risks Begin Mounting at Puberty

Blood pressure and triglycerides start rising during adolescence.

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Puberty's rough on a growing boy's heart. And not just because of the roller coaster of testosterone-induced crushes that don't always pan out as hoped. During adolescence, boys experience silent physiological changes that leave them at a higher risk of heart disease than their female counterparts for the remainder of their lives, researchers reported today.

Men's blood pressure and triglyceride levels increase during adolescence, even as their beneficial HDL cholesterol levels fall, Antoinette Moran, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital in Minneapolis, found after tracking 507 teens. In contrast, teenage girls experience decreases in triglycerides and an increase in HDL. You can click here to read more about the study, which was published in the journal Circulation.

I'm wagering these changes have something to do with the fact that between 70 and 89 percent of sudden cardiac events occur in men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. My colleague, Katherine Hobson, explores in more detail in her 2006 article the different ways that heart disease plagues men and women.

What can we men do to prevent our Achilles' heart from taking us out too soon? Diet is hardly the only risk factor for heart disease, but it is one that we can control relatively easily. This approach to eating is proven to lower our blood pressure. And these have a range of health benefits. Even less drastic dietary changes geared toward fast-food lovers may help.