Background Whether muscle strength in youth is related to cardiovascular risk later in life independent of cardiorespiratory fitness is unclear.
Methods We examined the independent association of isometric muscle strength in youth with cardiovascular risk factors in young adulthood using data from the Danish European Youth Heart Study; a population-based prospective cohort study among boys and girls (n=332) followed for up to 12 years. In youth maximal voluntary contractions during isometric back extension and abdominal flexion were determined using a strain-gauge dynamometer and cardiorespiratory fitness was obtained from a maximal cycle ergometer test. Cardiovascular risk factors were obtained in youth and in young adulthood. Associations were examined using multivariable-adjusted regression models including major confounding factors.
Results Each 1 SD difference in isometric muscle strength in youth (0.17 N/kg) was inversely associated with body mass index (BMI; −0.60 kg/m2, 95% CI −0.97 to −0.22), triglyceride (−0.09 mmol/l, 95% CI −0.16 to −0.02), diastolic blood pressure (BP) (−1.22 mm Hg, 95% CI −2.15 to −0.29) and a composite cardiovascular risk factor score (−0.61 SD, 95% CI −1.03 to −0.20) in young adulthood in multivariable-adjusted analyses including fitness. Associations to triglyceride, diastolic BP and the cardiovascular risk factor score remained with additional adjustment for waist circumference or BMI. Each 1 SD difference in isometric muscle strength in youth was significantly associated with 0.59 (95% CI 0.40 to 0.87) lower odds of general overweight/obesity in young adulthood (p=0.007) and was marginally associated with incident raised BP, raised triglyceride and low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
Conclusions This study suggests that greater isometric muscle strength in youth is associated with lower levels of cardiovascular risk factors in young adulthood independent of fitness, adiposity and other confounding factors.
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