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24-10-2010 | Cardiometabolic | Article

CVD risk factors show pronounced parent–child associations


Free abstract

MedWire News: Lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and smoking influence cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk profiles within biological families, German researchers have shown.

Writing in the journal Atherosclerosis, they say their findings may be useful for implementing family-based and population-based CVD prevention strategies.

Peter Schwandt (Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich) and colleagues sought to describe intra-familial associations of lifestyle behaviours and their associations with CVD risk factors.

The study participants were 2001 parent-child pairs who had participated in the Prevention Education Program (PEP) Family Heart Study, a 15-year prospective community-based study. For the current study, Schwandt's team analyzed cross-sectional data from seven surveys administered between 2000-2001 and 2007-2008.

Of all family members, fathers exhibited the most adverse CVD risk profiles, with the highest prevalence of hypercholesterolemia (39.3%), hypertension (41.9%), obesity (9.0%), central obesity (14.3%), and abnormal triglycerides (18.7%).

In terms of nutrition, daily intake of energy and macronutrients was higher in males than in females, and higher in parents than in children. Energy intakes were higher than recommended in mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons.

Interestingly, children consumed around 1% less polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and around 1% more saturated fat (SFA) than their parents. No families achieved recommended intake of PUFAs and just 0.2% of families met guidelines for SFA.

Hypercaloric nutrition in parents predicted the same in children for mother-daughter pairs, at an odds ratio (OR) of 7.5, mother-son pairs, at an OR of 3.0, and father-son pairs, at an OR of 2.8.

Higher than recommended energy consumption was significantly associated with hypertension in mothers, at an OR of 2.5, and in fathers, at an OR of 1.7.

With regard to physical activity, again, there was a significant correlation between aerobic leisure time physical activity (LTPA) in parents and children, such that low parental LTPA predicted around a two-fold lower LTPA in their offspring. Children exposed to passive smoking were more likely to have obesity, hypertension, hypertriglyceridemia, and raised blood glucose than other children.

"The environmental lifestyle factors of nutrition, physical activity, and smoking, and seven conventional CVD risk factors are significantly associated between parents and children in a large sample of biological families," the researchers conclude.

"The current study may provide a good basis for the population-wide implementation of a family-based lifestyle intervention to reduce CV risk factors."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Joanna Lyford