Abstract Background GrimAge acceleration (GAA), an epigenetic marker that represents physiologic aging, is associated with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. However, the associations between early adulthood lipid levels and GAA in midlife are unknown. Also, it is unknown whether GAA mediates the associations between lipid levels in young adults and subclinical atherosclerosis in midlife. Results We estimated measures of epigenetic age acceleration in 1118 White and Black participants from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study at examination years (Y) 15 and 20. We used multivariable regression models to examine associations of Y15 and Y20 GAA estimates with plasma lipid levels measured at prior examination years (Y0, Y5, and Y10) and concurrently: triglycerides (TG), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels. Mediation analysis was used to assess the extent to which GAA may mediate associations between plasma lipids and coronary artery calcification (CAC). In our study each 1-SD higher cumulative TG level was associated with an average 0.73 ± 0.12 years older GAA. Each 1-SD higher cumulative HDL-C level was associated with an average 0.57 ± 0.17 years younger GAA. Stratified analyses showed that the associations between TG and GAA were stronger among female and Black participants and the associations between HDL-C and GAA were stronger among female and White participants. GAA statistically mediated 17.4% of the association of cumulative TG with CAC. Conclusions High TG and low HDL-C in early adulthood are associated with accelerated epigenetic aging by midlife. Increased epigenetic age acceleration may partially mediate the associations between high TG levels and the presence of subclinical atherosclerosis.
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