(NBC) - Seemingly healthy young adults may be more at risk for heart disease than they think.
The heavy build-up of fat in arteries, known as atherosclerosis, is clear in images from a cardiac catheter lab, but it starts lurking in the body, undetected, long before it sends us to the hospital with a heart attack.
A new study from Canada looked at healthy adults in their 20s and early 30s. They had no known heart disease risk factors such as a family history, high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol.
Through MRI scans, researchers discovered many of the test subjects had fat surrounding their internal organs, an early warning sign of atherosclerosis.
"We now see more childhood obesity, we see less exercise, we see more young people with diabetes, I think we're going to see a higher rate of heart disease," said Dr. David Frid with the Cleveland Clinic.
Experts say regular check-ups, a healthy diet, not smoking and exercise are ways young adults can take control of their long-term well-being.
Researchers said a simple measure of waist circumference was able to indicate if a study participant had higher levels of internal fat.