(NaturalNews) The use of medications for heart disease-related conditions is growing far faster among young adults than among any other age group, according to a study by Medco Health Solutions, Inc., a for-profit company that operates a large mail order pharmacy.
The study looked at changes in medication use among various age groups between the years of 2001 and 2006. Medco's primary source of information was a sample database containing information on 2.5 million of the 60 million patients whose benefits the company manages.
Among those aged 20 to 44, use of cholesterol medications increased by 68 percent, from 2.5 million to 4.2 million. This increase was 37 percent higher than the increase in those aged 45 to 64, and 31 percent higher than the increase in those 65 and older.
Use of blood pressure medication increased by 21 percent among those aged 20 to 44, from 7 million to 8.5 million. This growth was 52 percent higher than the growth in the 45 to 64 age group, and more than 100 percent greater than the growth in those 65 and older.
"We were pretty surprised by the rapid increase in a short time frame in this age group," said Medco's chief medical officer, Robert Epstein.
Epstein attributed the growth, in part, to the "epidemic of overweight and obesity in this country," and people's increasing comfort with the concept of taking prescription medications.
"The 'good news' part of the story is that prevention is really important," Epstein said. "It's not bad that people get these problems controlled at a younger age because it will reduce the lifelong complications." But he emphasized that drugs are not enough, and that adjustments to lifestyle and diet are a critical part of improving cardiovascular health.
Medications for conditions related to heart disease are usually taken for life. This means that as people start taking the drugs sooner, the profits for pharmaceutical companies increase.
"It's another signal that we have an issue in this country that we have to get our arms around sooner rather than later, because we are destining these young people to lifelong therapy," Epstein said.