Association of Cardiovascular Health Through Young Adulthood with Genome-Wide DNA Methylation Patterns in Midlife: The CARDIA Study

Yinan Zheng*, Brian T. Joyce, Shih Jen Hwang, Jiantao Ma, Lei Liu, Norrina B. Allen, Amy E. Krefman, Jun Wang, Tao Gao, Drew R. Nannini, Haixiang Zhang, David R. Jacobs, Myron D. Gross, Myriam Fornage, Cora E. Lewis, Pamela J. Schreiner, Stephen Sidney, Dongquan Chen, Philip Greenland, Daniel LevyLifang Hou*, Donald M. Lloyd-Jones*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: Cardiovascular health (CVH) from young adulthood is strongly associated with an individual's future risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and total mortality. Defining epigenomic biomarkers of lifelong CVH exposure and understanding their roles in CVD development may help develop preventive and therapeutic strategies for CVD. Methods: In 1085 CARDIA study (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults) participants, we defined a clinical cumulative CVH score that combines body mass index, blood pressure, total cholesterol, and fasting glucose measured longitudinally from young adulthood through middle age over 20 years (mean age, 25-45). Blood DNA methylation at >840 000 methylation markers was measured twice over 5 years (mean age, 40 and 45). Epigenome-wide association analyses on the cumulative CVH score were performed in CARDIA and compared in the FHS (Framingham Heart Study). We used penalized regression to build a methylation-based risk score to evaluate the risk of incident coronary artery calcification and clinical CVD events. Results: We identified 45 methylation markers associated with cumulative CVH at false discovery rate <0.01 (P=4.7E-7-5.8E-17) in CARDIA and replicated in FHS. These associations were more pronounced with methylation measured at an older age. CPT1A, ABCG1, and SREBF1 appeared as the most prominent genes. The 45 methylation markers were mostly located in transcriptionally active chromatin and involved lipid metabolism, insulin secretion, and cytokine production pathways. Three methylation markers located in genes SARS1, SOCS3, and LINC-PINT statistically mediated 20.4% of the total effect between CVH and risk of incident coronary artery calcification. The methylation risk score added information and significantly (P=0.004) improved the discrimination capacity of coronary artery calcification status versus CVH score alone and showed association with risk of incident coronary artery calcification 5 to 10 years later independent of cumulative CVH score (odds ratio, 1.87; P=9.66E-09). The methylation risk score was also associated with incident clinical CVD in FHS (hazard ratio, 1.28; P=1.22E-05). Conclusions: Cumulative CVH from young adulthood contributes to midlife epigenetic programming over time. Our findings demonstrate the role of epigenetic markers in response to CVH changes and highlight the potential of epigenomic markers for precision CVD prevention, and earlier detection of subclinical CVD, as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-109
Number of pages16
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 12 2022


  • DNA methylation
  • cardiovascular diseases
  • cardiovascular risk factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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