Objective: To assess the associations between parental age at birth of first child and coronary heart disease (CHD) risk factors in men and women. To investigate whether the associations are explained by childhood predictors of age at parenthood or adult lifestyle factors related to child-rearing.
Methods: Data from 2,540 men and women, with CHD risk factors measured at age 53 years, from a birth cohort study of individuals born in Britain in 1946 (MRC National Survey of Health and Development) and followed up regularly throughout life, were analysed.
Results: Younger age at birth of first child in both men and women was associated with poorer mean BMI, waist:hip ratio, BP, HDL cholesterol, triglyceride and glycated haemoglobin levels. Mean BMI (95% confidence interval(CI)) decreased from 28.0 kg/m2 (27.2 to 28.8) in the teenage motherhood group to 26.8 kg/m2 (25.9 to 27.7) in the oldest motherhood group (30+ years). For men, the equivalent mean values were 28.5 kg/m2 (27.3 to 29.8) and 27.1 kg/m2 (26.7 to 27.6). Associations with adiposity, lipid measures and glycated haemoglobin were largely explained by childhood antecedents and adult social and lifestyle variables. Associations with BP remained robust to adjustment: SBP remained highest in teenage parents (7.5 mmHg (1.0 to 13.9) difference in women and 8.6 mmHg (0.4 to 16.8) in men between youngest and oldest parenthood groups).
Conclusions: Lifestyle factors, rather than the biological impact of pregnancy, explain the relationship between age at motherhood and CHD risk factors. Family based lifestyle interventions targeted at young parents may improve their future CHD risk.
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