The quantitative relationship of incident cardiovascular disease (CVD) to lifetime cumulative risk factor exposure is not well understood.
Using CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults) study data, we examined the quantitative associations of cumulative exposure over time to multiple, simultaneously operating risk factors with CVD incidence and the incidence of its components.
Regression models were developed quantifying the influence of the time course and severity of multiple CVD risk factors, operating simultaneously, on risk of incident CVD. The outcomes were incident CVD and the incidence of its components: coronary heart disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure.
Our study included 4,958 asymptomatic adults enrolled in CARDIA from 1985 to 1986 (ages 18 to 30 years) who were followed for 30 years. Risk of incident CVD depends on the time course and severity of a series of independent risk factors, the impact of which is mediated by their effects on individual CVD components after age 40 years. Cumulative exposure (AUC vs time) to low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides was independently associated with risk of incident CVD. Of the blood pressure variables, areas under the mean arterial pressure vs time curve and the pulse pressure vs time curve were strongly and independently associated with incident CVD risk.
The quantitative description of the link between risk factors and CVD informs the construction of individualized CVD mitigation strategies, design of primary prevention trials, and assessment of public health impact of risk factor-based interventions.

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