Causal effects of cardiovascular risk factors on onset of major age-related diseases: A time-to-event Mendelian randomization study.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


Elucidating the causal effects of common intermediate risk factors on the onset of age-related diseases is indispensable for developing prevention and intervention procedures.


We conducted two-stage time-to-event Mendelian randomization meta-analyses combining five large-scale longitudinal cohorts to investigate dynamic causal effects of cardiovascular disease risk factors including body mass index (BMI), systolic blood pressure (SBP), and lipids on the age-at-onset of age-related diseases. We constructed weighted polygenic scores based on genetic markers from previously reported genome-wide association studies as instrumental variables to estimate the causal effects. To avoid false positive due to potential pleiotropic effects of the genetic markers, we performed a leave-one-out sensitivity analysis and an MR-Egger sensitivity analysis that we expanded in the survival context.


Our results show that elevated BMI increases the absolute risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D) (p=7.68e-04), heart failure (p=9.03e-03), and cardiovascular diseases (CVD) (p=1.69e-03) and the causal effects start at different ages. A significant association between BMI and the risk of stroke is observed; however, the sensitivity analyses suggest that the association is attributed to the potential pleiotropic effects of rs2867125 and rs1558902. Raised SBP levels are significantly associated with the development of atrial fibrillation (p=6.42e-03). Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels are inversely associated with the age-at-onset of T2D (p=1.05e-02). In addition, LDL-C and triglycerides are inversely associated with the risks of cancer and T2D, respectively. Nevertheless, the sensitivity analyses suggest that these associations are probably due to pleiotropic effects of several single-nucleotide polymorphisms including rs4970834 and rs1260326.


Our results highlight the involvement of BMI in the development of multiple age-related diseases. Some observed causal associations can attribute to pleiotropic effects of some genetic variations. These findings have important implications in unraveling causal effects of common risk factors on age-related diseases and guiding effective intervention strategies to reduce the incidence of these diseases.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • He, L; Culminskaya, I; Loika, Y; Arbeev, KG; Bagley, O; Duan, M; Yashin, AI; Kulminski, AM

Published Date

  • July 2018

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 107 /

Start / End Page

  • 74 - 86

PubMed ID

  • 28964830

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC5874182

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1873-6815

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0531-5565

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.exger.2017.09.019


  • eng