Carotid Stiffness in Young Adults: A Life-Course Analysis of its Early Determinants
The Amsterdam Growth and Health Longitudinal Study
Cardiovascular risk factors affecting arterial stiffness in adulthood may develop at different critical periods earlier in life. We examined whether the trajectories, from adolescence to young adulthood, of blood pressure, body fatness and fat distribution, blood lipids, cardiorespiratory fitness, and heart rate determined levels of arterial stiffness in young adults. We investigated 373 apparently healthy adults in whom cardiovascular risk factors were repeatedly examined between the ages of 13 and 36 years and carotid stiffness estimates were obtained at the age of 36 years. Differences in the mean levels and the trajectories of risk factors throughout the 24-year longitudinal period between subjects with different levels of carotid stiffness at age 36 years were analyzed with generalized estimating equations. Compared with individuals with less stiff carotid arteries, those with stiffer carotid arteries at the age of 36 years were characterized from ages 13 to 36 years by greater levels of and steeper increases in blood pressure and central fatness, independently of each other and other risk factors. These increases were already present in adolescence, preceded the development of poorer levels of blood lipids, cardiorespiratory fitness, and heart rate, which were evident during adulthood only, and explained to a great extent the deleterious association between these risk factors and carotid stiffness at the age of 36 years. Multiple and intertwined mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of arterial stiffness have their origins in early life. Blood pressure and central fatness have a pivotal role herein and should be specifically targeted to prevent arterial stiffening and its cardiovascular sequelae.
- Received May 5, 2010.
- Revision received May 25, 2010.
- Accepted October 11, 2011.
- © 2011 American Heart Association, Inc.