Gestational age and arterial characteristics at 29 years of age in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Young Adults (ARYA) study.
Background: Several studies have indicated that prenatal condition may affect cardiovascular risk factors and thereby risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Based on these findings it has been suggested that impaired intra-uterine growth leads to increased risk of atherosclerosis. Data directly relating prenatal factors to vascular changes are limited and restricted to older individuals. In the ARYA study we evaluated whether birth characteristics are associated with subclinical atherosclerosis in young adults. Methods: The ARYA-study is a cohort study of 750 men and women aged 27-30 years. Information on birth characteristics (gestational age, birth weight, birth length) was obtained from the municipal health service medical files. At baseline, information on cardiovascular risk factors was obtained by questionnaire and measurements during two visits at the research centre. Arterial characteristics were non-invasively assessed by measuring common carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT) at both carotid arteries and by measuring aortic stiffness by pulse wave velocity (PWV). At present, data on 204 subjects are available for analysis. Linear regression analysis was applied and results are adjusted for age, gender, smoking and family history. Results: This sub-analysis comprised of 204 young adults (47% men) with a mean age of 29.2 (0.5). Mean gestational age was 39.8 (1.8) weeks, birth weight 3420 (539) gram, birth length 51.0 (2.5) cm, CIMT 0.51 (0.05) mm and mean PWV 6.2 (1.0) m/s. With increasing gestational age (in weeks), CIMT decreased with 0.006 mm [CI: -0.010, -0.002], whereas PWV decreased with 0.112 m/s [CI: -0.217, -0.008]. These associations were independent of birth weight. Conclusion: This preliminary analysis of the ARYA-study indicates that decreased gestational age relates to subclinical atherosclerosis already in young adulthood.