Teenage body size does not predict heart failure in older adults

Research Activities, May 2012, No. 381

Being overweight as a teenager can cause a variety of health problems for a young individual. Recent studies also point to a variety of issues arising in adulthood as a result of being overweight or obese during the teen years. In fact, carrying extra weight as a teenager is associated with higher mortality rates in later adulthood. However, a new study found no association between higher rates of heart failure among the elderly and being overweight as a teenager.

The study included 5,293 community-dwelling adults age 65 and older, who were participants in the Cardiovascular Heart Study (CHS). In addition to physical examinations and laboratory tests, the individuals were asked about their weight as teenagers. Following the collection of baseline information, participants were followed for up to 13 years to see if they developed new-onset heart failure.

More than half (57 percent) of participants reported having an average body size as a teenager. Another 34 percent reported being heavier than average, while the remaining 9 percent said they were thinner than average. Heart failure developed in 1,072 individuals after a median of 12 years follow-up. The rate of heart failure was 20 percent in those with average teenage body size, 20 percent in those whose teen weight was heavier than average, and 22 percent in those thinner than average. All results were similar for different sexes and races. Interestingly, older adults who reported being thinner than average during their teen years had the highest average body mass index (BMI) as adults. The opposite was also true. Participants who said they were heavier than average as teenagers had the lowest BMI as older adults. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS19465).

See "Self-reported teenage body size and heart failure in adults >65 years of age," by Emily B. Levitan, Sc.D., Marjan Mujib, M.B.B.S., Margaret A. Feller, M.P.H., and others in the International Journal of Cardiology 149(3), pp. 401-402, 2011.

Page last reviewed May 2012
Internet Citation: Teenage body size does not predict heart failure in older adults: Research Activities, May 2012, No. 381. May 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. https://archive.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/may12/0512RA18.html