Study Links Childhood Risk Factors to Cardiovascular Disease in Adulthood

A study presented at ESC Congress 2019 revealed childhood BMI, systolic blood pressure, and serum total cholesterol and triglycerides are positively associated with adult CVD.

Terence Dwyer, MD

A team of international investigators presented findings of a study detailing a link between cardiovascular risk factors in children with cardiovascular disease (CVD) as an adult at ESC Congress 2019 in Paris. 



The study, which included more than 16,000 participants, revealed childhood BMI, systolic blood pressure, and serum total cholesterol (TC) and triglycerides are positively associated with adult CVD.

"While previous research has found connections between smoking and BMI in childhood and adult cardiovascular disease, there was no data for blood pressure or serum cholesterol,” said lead investigator Terence Dwyer, MD, professor of epidemiology at Oxford University. “In addition, it has not been possible to assess the contributions of BMI and smoking while taking cholesterol and blood pressure into account."

In an effort to examine how childhood risk factors as potential predictor of adult pre-clinical atherosclerosis, investigators conducted a longitudinal study using data from the International Childhood Cardiovascular Cohort (i3C) Consortium. A total of 16,964 adult participants from Australia, the United States, and Finland were identified for inclusion in the study.

The all participants in the study underwent an examine between the ages of 3 and 19serum cholesterol, blood pressure, BMI, and smoking. The mean age of study participants was 49 years old.

Upon analysis, investigators found 201 people had suffered a CVD event (70% coronary artery, 25% cerebrovascular, 5% peripheral artery disease). After adjusting for childhood age, age, at follow-up, sex, and cohort/race, it was determined that childhood BMI, systolic blood pressure, and serum total cholesterol (TC) and triglycerides were associated with adult CVD events (P=0.08).

When analyzed as individual risk factors, results indicated a 10% rise in BMI was associated with a 20% higher risk of an event, while a 10% risk in systolic blood pressure led to a 40% higher risk. Adolescent smoking was associated with a 77% increased risk of an event. Investigators also noted that a 10% rise in serum cholesterol was associated with a 16% increased chance of an event.

In a release from the European Society of Cardiology, Dwyer noted the results of the study highlight how much of an impact childhood risk factors can impact CVD in adulthood.

“The study shows a very strong relationship between standard cardiovascular risk factors in children and the probability of a heart attack or stroke later in life,” Dwyer explained. “A meaningful proportion of that risk appears to be laid down in childhood and has a detrimental effect independent of adult risk factor levels.”

This study, “Childhood risk factors and cardiovascular disease outcomes in adulthood. Preliminary findings from the International Childhood Cardiovascular Cohort (i3C) Consortium,” was presented at ESC Congress 2019 in Paris.