CARDIA study cohort

BMI in Young Adults Important Predictor of Cardiovascular Health Interview with:
Ravi V. Shah, MD
Cardiology Division, Department of Medicine
Massachusetts General Hospital
Boston, MA

Venkatesh L. Murthy MD, PhD
Division of Cardiovascular Medicine
Department of Medicine and Frankel Cardiovascular Center
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI What is the background for this study?

Response: We were interested in evaluating how added information like fitness assessed on a treadmill exercise test, physical activity questionnaires and genetic risk scores could inform patients and doctors’ understanding of how an individuals BMI might change over time. We used one of the latest and broadest polygenic risk scores.

We investigated the CARDIA cohort, a study sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, who were young adults aged 18 to 30 and have been followed serially for 25 years. What are the main findings?

Response: We found that all three markers (fitness, physical activity and genetics) improved estimation of future BMI, beyond age, sex, race and family history of overweight or obesity. However, none of these three markers added much to prediction once a person’s baseline BMI as a young adult was included in the model. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: One key message is that although physical activity and fitness are critical for maintaining a healthy body weight and for cardiovascular health generally, it is also important to monitor BMI with your physician. When we included serial measures of BMI in the datasets, we were able to account for >80% of the variation in weight in the population over 25 years, as compared to <25% using genetics, fitness and activity at baseline. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: These data suggest that even as early as ages 18-30, people’s BMI has already put them on a lifetime path based on their lifestyle and genetics. Investigating further about how to develop healthy eating and fitness habits in children and teens will be an important part of bending the curve on obesity trends.

There are no direct conflicts of interest. However, Dr. Murthy owns stock in General Electric which manufacturers exercise testing equipment but was not involved in this study.


Murthy VL, Xia R, Baldridge AS, et al. Polygenic Risk, Fitness, and Obesity in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study. JAMA Cardiol. Published online January 08, 2020. doi:


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Last Modified: Jan 8, 2020 @ 8:37 pm




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