Pediatric Cardiometabolic Risk Factors Linked to Family History of Heart Disease and Diabetes Interview with:

Dr. Nina Berentzen PhD National Institute for Public Health and the Environment Bilthoven, the Netherlands

Dr. Nina Berentzen

Dr. Nina Berentzen PhD
National Institute for Public Health and the Environment
Bilthoven, the Netherlands What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Berentzen: Cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes often occur together and share risk factors including an unhealthy diet, a lack of physical activity, and being overweight or obese. This study is the first to investigate the occurrence of both diabetes and CVD across two generations of parents and grandparents, and relate it to measurable risk factors in children. We found that one third of the 12-year-olds studied had a strong family history of one or both of cardiovascular disease (myocardial infarction and stroke) and type 2 diabetes. Children had a ‘strong family history’ if they had one affected parent, or at least one grandparent with early disease onset, or 3–4 grandparents with late disease onset. These children had higher levels of total cholesterol, and a higher ratio of total/HDL cholesterol than children with no family history of disease. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: The main message is that the children in our study with a strong family history of cardiovascular disease and/or diabetes had unfavourable levels of cardiometabolic markers specific to those diseases. Family history of myocardial infarction may be most relevant for children’s cholesterol levels, whereas family history of diabetes may be relevant for children’s waist circumference and HbA1c, in addition to cholesterol levels. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Berentzen: Lifestyle factors may be on the pathway from family history to cardiometabolic markers in offspring, which is an important topic for further investigation. Future studies may especially focus on lifestyle behaviours that are passed on from one generation to the next since these may account for (part of) the association of diabetes/CVD in multiple generations with offspring cardiometabolic risk. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Dr. Berentzen: Awareness of the links between cardiometabolic risk factors in children and family history may increase the motivation of families to follow healthy lifestyle guidelines. By adopting healthy lifestyles, unfavourable levels of cardiometabolic markers can be prevented and long-term cardiovascular health may be improved across generations. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Nina E. Berentzen, Alet H. Wijga, Lenie van Rossem, Gerard H. Koppelman, Bo van Nieuwenhuizen, Ulrike Gehring, Annemieke M. W. Spijkerman, Henriëtte A. Smit. Family history of myocardial infarction, stroke and diabetes and cardiometabolic markers in children. Diabetologia, 2016; DOI: 10.1007/s00125-016-3988-2

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on June 1, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD