Young people who appear healthy are at risk of clogged arteries, Canadian researchers said Tuesday.
Scientists from the University of Quebec studied 168 adults, aged between 18 and 35, and found that a "staggering" proportion of them have a buildup of fat in the walls of arteries, known as atherosclerosis.
The participants of the study had no family history of heart disease and no other known risk factors, such as diabetes, obesity, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure or smoking.
"The proportion of young, apparently healthy adults who are presumably 'the picture of health' who already have atherosclerosis is staggering," Dr. Eric Larose, an interventional cardiologist at the university, told Canada's Cardiovascular Congress in Vancouver.
Some of the volunteers were found to have greater waist circumference and visceral fat covering internal organs within the chest and abdomen.
Larose said that young people with higher amounts of visceral fat were at greater risk of heart attack or stroke.
Dr. Beth Abramson from Canada's Heart and Stroke Foundation said, "You can think of it as a ticking time bomb inside your body that might explode later in life."
The foundation advised people to maintain a healthy lifestyle and control blood pressure and stress.