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Public Health. 2002 Nov;116(6):332-40.

A longitudinal study through adolescence to adulthood: the Young Hearts Project, Northern Ireland.

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Northern Ireland Centre for Diet and Health (NICHE), School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Ulster, Cromore Road, Coleraine BT52 1SA, UK.


The Young Hearts (YH) Project is an ongoing study of biological and behavioural risk factors for cardiovascular disease in a representative sample of young people from Northern Ireland, a region of high coronary mortality. This article describes the cross-sectional clinical, dietary and lifestyle data obtained from individuals (aged 20-25 y) who participated in phase 3 of the project (YH3). A total of 489 individuals (251 males, 238 females) participated in YH3 (48.2% response rate). Some 31.1% of participants at YH3 were overweight (BMI >25 kg/m(2)) with 4.4% of males and 8.0% of females were obese (BMI >30 kg/m(2)). More females than males had a very poor fitness (55.0 vs 22.1%, chi-squared 51.70, d.f. 1, P<0.001) and did not participate in any sporting or exercise activity (38.4 vs 24.9%, chi-squared 10.26, d.f. 1, P=0.001). Over 20% of participants had a raised total serum cholesterol (>5.2 mmol/l). More females had a raised serum LDL-cholesterol (>3.0 mmol/l) than males (44.6 vs 34.6%, chi-squared 4.39, d.f. 1, P<0.05). Over 46% of participants reported energy intakes from fat above recommended levels, and 68.5% of participants had saturated fat intakes above those recommended (Dietary reference values for food energy and nutrients for the United Kingdom. HMSO: London, 1991). Just over half of the study population reported alcohol intakes in excess of recommended sensible limits set by the Royal College of Physicians (A great and growing evil: the medical consequences of alcohol abuse. Tavistock: London, 1987), with 36.7% of males and 13.4% of females reporting intakes over twice these recommended limits. A total of 37% of the study population smoked. During young adulthood, individuals may be less amenable to attend a health-related study and recruitment of participants to the current phase of the study proved a major problem. However, these data constitute a unique developmental record from adolescence to young adulthood in a cohort from Northern Ireland and provide additional information on the impact of early life, childhood and young adulthood on the development of risk for chronic disease.

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