Daniel Berglind. Photo: Alexander Donka
“Our conclusion is that of the risk factors studied, high BMI is the strongest individual risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and that efforts to tackle the obesity epidemic should continue to be given high priority,” says co-author Daniel Berglind, docent at the Department of Global Public Health, Karolinska Institutet. “A good level of fitness and muscle strength in adolescence doesn’t seem as crucial, but physical activity still remains important for public health, as it can bring other health benefits.”
The study examined the association between risk factors at a young age and future cardiovascular disease; other disease outcomes were not investigated. The researchers had no data on whether the participants’ risk factors varied later in life, and they only studied men, which makes it difficult to extend their findings to women. The Military Conscription Register also lacks details on certain risk factors for future cardiovascular disease, such as diet, alcohol consumption, smoking, blood lipids and blood glucose.
The researchers received no specific grant for this study. Co-author Martin Neovius is on the advisory panels for Ethicon, Johnson & Johnson and Itrim and has been a consultant for the Swedish armed forces outside the scope of this study. No other conflicts of interest have been reported.
“Genetic and environmental factors and cardiovascular disease risk in adolescents”, Marcel Ballin, Martin Neovius, Francisco B. Ortega, Pontus Henriksson, Anna Nordström, Daniel Berglind, Peter Nordström, Viktor H. Ahlqvist, JAMA Network Open, online 17 November 2023, doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.43947.