OBJECTIVE: To evaluate whether young and middle-age men differ in blood pressure and serum lipid profiles and, if so, to what extent these differences are dependent on total body fat, regional fat distribution, plasma insulin and behavioural variables. SUBJECTS: Random samples of 94 young (18 year-old) and 94 middle-age (38 year-old) healthy men matched for body mass index (BMI). MEASUREMENTS: BMI, total body fat (by bioelectrical impedance), regional fat distribution (by anthropometry), serum lipids, blood pressure, fasting insulin and some behavioural variables. RESULTS: Total body fat was similar in the two groups (mean +/- s.e.: 16.6 +/- 0.5 vs 16.0 +/- 0.6 kg and 20.8 +/- 0.5 vs 20 +/- 0.5%), while waist/hip circumference ratio (WHR) was significantly higher in middle-age as compared to young men (0.96 +/- 0.001 vs 0.92 +/- 0.003, P < 0.0001). The former also had significantly higher serum concentrations of total cholesterol (6.21 +/- 0.13 vs 4.10 +/- 0.10 mmol/l; P < 0.0001). LDL-cholesterol (4.24 +/- 0.11 vs 2.34 +/- 0.10 mmol/l; P < 0.0001), triglycerides 1.40 +/- 0.09 vs 1.02 +/- 0.06 mmol/l; P < 0.01) as well as higher systolic (134.0 +/- 1.6 vs 126.3 +/- 1.4 mmHg; P < 0.0001) and diastolic (86.8 +/- 0.9 vs 82.0 +/- 1.1 mmHg; P < 0.001) blood pressure values. HDL-cholesterol and fasting insulin concentrations were similar in the two groups (1.33 +/- 0.03 vs 1.28 +/- 0.03 mmol/l and 13.7 +/- 0.6 vs 14.7 +/- 0.7 mU/l, respectively). Significant differences in the two groups also were found in daily alcohol consumption (49.6 +/- 5.7 vs 20.0 +/- 3.4 g/day; P < 0.0001), whereas no significant differences were found in smoking and physical activity level. The comparison of subgroups (n = 41) of young and middle-age men matched for both BMI and WHR showed virtually unchanged differences in serum lipids and blood pressure. When age, BMI, WHR, fasting insulin and behavioural variables were included as independent variables in a multiple linear regression analysis in which subjects of the two groups were pooled, age was a significant predictor of total and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and systolic blood pressure, insulin predicted HDL cholesterol and systolic blood pressure, BMI predicted triglycerides and diastolic blood pressure and WHR was not an independent predictor of any risk factor. CONCLUSIONS: These results indicate that middle-age men have a cardiovascular risk profile less favourable than young men, which is largely independent of differences in total body fat content, regional fat distribution and behavioural variables.
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