Healthy lifestyle change and subclinical atherosclerosis in young adults: Coronary artery risk development in young adults (CARDIA) study

Bonnie Spring*, Arlen C. Moller, Laura A. Colangelo, Juned Siddique, Megan Roehrig, Martha L. Daviglus, Joseph F. Polak, Jared P. Reis, Stephen Sidney, Kiang Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

140 Scopus citations


Background - The benefits of healthy habits are well established, but it is unclear whether making health behavior changes as an adult can still alter coronary artery disease risk. Methods and Results - The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) prospective cohort study (n=3538) assessed 5 healthy lifestyle factors (HLFs) among young adults aged 18 to 30 years (year 0 baseline) and 20 years later (year 20): not overweight/obese, low alcohol intake, healthy diet, physically active, nonsmoker. We tested whether change from year 0 to 20 in a continuous composite HLF score (HLF change; range, -5 to +5) is associated with subclinical atherosclerosis (coronary artery calcification and carotid intima-media thickness) at year 20, after adjustment for demographics, medications, and baseline HLFs. By year 20, 25.3% of the sample improved (HLF change ≥+1); 40.4% deteriorated (had fewer HLFs); 34.4% stayed the same; and 19.2% had coronary artery calcification (>0). Each increase in HLFs was associated with reduced odds of detectable coronary artery calcification (odds ratio=0.85; 95% confidence interval, 0.74-0.98) and lower intima-media thickness (carotid bulb β=-0.024, P=0.001), and each decrease in HLFs was predictive to a similar degree of greater odds of coronary artery calcification (odds ratio=1.17; 95% confidence interval, 1.02-1.33) and greater intima-media thickness (β=+0.020, P<0.01). Conclusions - Healthy lifestyle changes during young adulthood are associated with decreased risk and unhealthy lifestyle changes are associated with increased risk for subclinical atherosclerosis in middle age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-17
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2014


  • Behavior modification
  • Behavioral medicine
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Epidemiology
  • Follow-up study
  • Prevention
  • Risk factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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