Childhood cardiovascular risk factors affect vascular function long before overt cardiovascular disease. Twin studies provide a unique opportunity to examine the influence of shared genetic and environmental influences on childhood cardiovascular function. We examined the relationship between birth parameters, markers of adiposity, insulin resistance, lipid profile and blood pressure and carotid–femoral pulse wave velocity (PWV), a validated non-invasive measure of arterial stiffness in a healthy cohort of school-aged twin children.
PWV was performed on a population-based birth cohort of 147 twin pairs aged 7–11 years. Fasting blood samples, blood pressure and adiposity measures were collected concurrently. Mixed linear regression models were used to account for twin clustering, within- and between-twin pair associations.
There were positive associations between both markers of higher adiposity, insulin resistance, elevated triglycerides and PWV, which remained significant after accounting for twin birth-set clustering. There was a positive association between both diastolic and mean arterial blood pressure and PWV in within-pair analysis in dizygotic, but not monozygotic twins, indicating genetic differences evident in dizygotic not monozygotic twins may affect these associations.
Increased blood pressure, triglycerides and other metabolic markers are associated with increased PWV in school-aged twins. These results support both the genetic and environmental contribution to higher PWV, as a marker of arterial stiffness, and reiterate the importance of preventing metabolic syndrome from childhood.