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cardiovascular disease prevention and control, risk factors, twins, adolescence, environment, genetics



  1. Meininger, Janet C.
  2. Hayman, Laura L.
  3. Coates, Paul M.
  4. Gallagher, Paul R.


Background: Although there is consensus that prevention of cardiovascular diseases is a worthwhile activity and that these efforts should begin in childhood, some controversies remain about the efficacy and timing of preventive efforts.


Objective: To differentiate the cardiovascular risk factors that have a potential to respond to environmental and lifestyle modification.


Methods: The sample consisted of 56 monozygotic and 29 same-sex dyzogotic twin pairs, equally distributed by gender with a mean age of 12.62 years. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure, triceps skinfold thickness, body mass, and fasting blood specimens for lipid profiles were collected during home visits. Teachers rated the subjects' Type A behaviors using the Matthews Youth Test for Health.


Results: Statistically significant estimates of genetic variance were obtained for cholesterol, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and body mass index. Compared with the previous phase of this longitudinal study, higher estimates of genetic variance were observed for components of the lipid profile and blood pressure and lower estimates were observed for Type A behavior variables.


Conclusions: Overall, the genetic influence on risk factors was moderate, leading to the conclusion that the potential to modify risk profiles during the transition from childhood to adolescence is substantial. Attitudes, behaviors, and environmental inducements that establish and maintain healthy lifestyles over long periods should be the focus of interventions and further research.