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Background: Modifiable lifestyle factors in relation to risk for cardiomyopathy, a common and increasing cause of heart failure in the young, have not been widely studied. We sought to investigate a potential link between obesity, a recognized predictor of early heart failure, in adolescence and being diagnosed with cardiomyopathy in adulthood. Methods: This was a nationwide register-based prospective cohort study of 1 668 893 adolescent men (mean age, 18.3 years; SD, 0.7 years) who enlisted for compulsory military service from 1969 to 2005. At baseline, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, and medical disorders were registered, along with test results for fitness and muscle strength. Cardiomyopathy diagnoses were identified from the National Hospital Register and Cause of Death Register during an up to 46-year follow-up and divided into categories: dilated, hypertrophic, alcohol/drug-induced, and other. Hazard ratios were calculated with Cox proportional hazards models. Results: During follow-up (median, 27 years; Q1–Q3, 19–35 years), 4477 cases of cardiomyopathy were identified, of which 2631 (59%) were dilated, 673 (15%) were hypertrophic, and 480 (11%) were alcohol/drug-induced. Increasing BMI was strongly associated with elevated risk of cardiomyopathy, especially dilated, starting at levels considered normal (BMI, 22.5–<25 kg/m2; hazard ratio, 1.38 [95% CI, 1.22–1.57]), adjusted for age, year, center, and baseline comorbidities, and with a >8-fold increased risk at BMI ≥35 kg/m2 compared with BMI of 18.5 to <20 kg/m2. For each 1-unit increase in BMI, similarly adjusted hazard ratios were 1.15 (95% CI, 1.14–1.17) for dilated cardiomyopathy, 1.09 (95% CI, 1.06–1.12) for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and 1.10 (1.06–1.13) for alcohol/drug-induced cardiomyopathy. Conclusions: Even mildly elevated body weight in late adolescence may contribute to being diagnosed with cardiomyopathy in adulthood. The already marked importance of weight control in youth is further strengthened by these findings, as well as greater evidence for obesity as a potential important cause of adverse cardiac remodeling that is independent of clinically evident ischemic heart disease.


Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research

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Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.