Age-related changes in risk factor effects on the incidence of coronary heart disease

Ann Epidemiol. 2002 Apr;12(3):173-81. doi: 10.1016/s1047-2797(01)00309-x.


Purpose: The purpose of this report is to examine the potential for risk factor effects on the incidence of CHD to change over a broad range of ages from middle adulthood to late-life.

Methods: Findings are based on repeated risk factor measurements at four examinations over a 26-year period in men enrolled in the Honolulu Heart Program. After each examination, six years of follow-up were available to assess risk factor effects as the cohort aged from 45 to 93 years.

Results: Based on 18,456 person intervals of follow-up, 677 men developed CHD (3.7%). After risk factor adjustment, a positive relation between hypertension and CHD declined significantly with age (p = 0.013), primarily due to a large increase in the risk of CHD in elderly men (75 to 93) without hypertension. Effects of total cholesterol on CHD also seemed to decline with advancing age, although changes were not statistically significant. In contrast, men with diabetes had a consistent 2-fold excess risk of CHD across all age groups, while a positive association with body mass index in younger men (45 to 54) became negative in those who were the oldest (75 to 93). Due to infrequent smoking in the elderly, associations between smoking and CHD weakened with age. In the oldest men (75 to 93), alcohol intake was unrelated to CHD, while effects of sedentary life-styles on promoting CHD appeared stronger than in those who were younger.

Conclusion: Findings suggest that changes in risk factor effects on the incidence of CHD with advancing age may require updated strategies for CHD prevention as aging occurs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Coronary Disease / blood
  • Coronary Disease / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Hawaii / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / epidemiology


  • Cholesterol