I’ve often wondered at what age we should begin worrying about our weight in terms of its impact on heart disease. I’m not the only one with an interest regarding weight and when it begins to impact our heart health. The National Institute of Health, through the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute division, has been asking the same question.
The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) is a long-term study sponsored by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. The study focused on learning more about how cardiovascular disease (heart disease) actually develops during the course of our lives. The CARDIA study began in 1986 with an original group of over 5100 participants. Follow-up examinations were conducted at years 2, 5, 7, 10, 15 and 20. By year 20 of the study, 72% of the original participants were still actively engaged in the study.
The original pool of study participants consisted of both men and women between the ages of 18 and 30 years of age. In selecting the participants, researches tried to obtain an equal balance of the various subgroups, including: “race, gender, education (high school or less and more than high school) and age (18-24 and 25-30)."
During the course of the study, researchers gathered information on a variety of contributing factors to heart disease. Some of the issues tracked included factors such as weight, cholesterol levels, lifestyle (smoking, alcohol usage), family history, blood pressure levels, physical measurements, exercise habits, dietary intake, glucose and insulin levels.
One of the findings of the study as it relates to weight was that participants who maintained their starting program weight throughout the course of the study were at less risk for developing metabolic syndrome than their counterparts who gained weight. Eighteen percent of the participants who gained weight developed metabolic syndrome by year 15 of the CARDIA study. Of those participants who maintained their starting weight, only 3.6% of participants developed metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is actually a “catch-all” name for a group of five risk factors relating to obesity.