Relative contributions of six lifestyle- and health-related exposures to epigenetic aging: the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study

Kyeezu Kim, Yinan Zheng, Brian T. Joyce, Hongmei Jiang, Philip Greenland, David R. Jacobs, Kai Zhang, Lei Liu, Norrina Bai Allen, John T Wilkins, Sarah N. Forrester, Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, Lifang Hou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: DNA methylation-based GrimAge acceleration (GrimAA) is associated with a wide range of age-related health outcomes including cardiovascular disease. Since DNA methylation is modifiable by external and behavioral exposures, it is important to identify which of these exposures may have the strongest contributions to differences in GrimAA, to help guide potential intervention strategies. Here, we assessed the relative contributions of lifestyle- and health-related components, as well as their collective association, to GrimAA. Results: We included 744 participants (391 men and 353 women) from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study with blood DNA methylation information at CARDIA Exam Year (Y) 20 (2005–2006, mean age 45.9 years). Six cumulative exposures by Y20 were included in the analysis: total packs of cigarettes, total alcohol consumption, education years, healthy diet score, sleep hours, and physical activity. We used quantile-based g-computation (QGC) and Bayesian kernel machine regression (BKMR) methods to assess the relative contribution of each exposure to a single overall association with GrimAA. We also assessed the collective association of the six components combined with GrimAA. Smoking showed the greatest positive contribution to GrimAA, accounting for 83.5% of overall positive associations of the six exposures with GrimAA (QGC weight = 0.835). The posterior inclusion probability (PIP) of smoking also achieved the highest score of 1.0 from BKMR analysis. Healthy diet and education years showed inverse contributions to GrimAA. We observed a U-shaped pattern in the contribution of alcohol consumption to GrimAA. While smoking was the greatest contributor across sex and race subgroups, the relative contributions of other components varied by subgroups. Conclusions: Smoking, alcohol consumption, and education showed the highest contributions to GrimAA in our study. Higher amounts of smoking and alcohol consumption were likely to contribute to greater GrimAA, whereas achieved education was likely to contribute to lower GrimAA. Identifying pertinent lifestyle- and health-related exposures in a context of collective components can provide direction for intervention strategies and suggests which components should be the primary focus for promoting younger GrimAA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number85
JournalClinical Epigenetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Accelerated epigenetic age
  • DNA methylation
  • Epigenetic aging
  • Lifestyle- and health-related components

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology


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