Association among sickle cell trait, fitness, and cardiovascular risk factors in CARDIA

Liem, R. I.; Chan, C.; Vu, T. T.; Fornage, M.; Thompson, A. A.; Liu, K.; Carnethon, M. R.

Blood. 2016 Nov 20; 129(6):723-728


The contribution of sickle cell trait (SCT) to racial disparities in cardiopulmonary fitness is not known, despite concerns that SCT is associated with exertion-related sudden death. We evaluated the association of SCT status with cross-sectional and longitudinal changes in fitness and risk for hypertension, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome over the course of 25 years among 1995 African Americans (56% women, 18-30 years old) in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. Overall, the prevalence of SCT was 6.8% (136/1995) in CARDIA, and over the course of 25 years, 46% (738/1590), 18% (288/1631), and 40% (645/1,611) of all participants developed hypertension, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, respectively. Compared with participants without SCT, participants with SCT had similar baseline measures of fitness in cross-section, including exercise duration (535 vs 540 seconds; P = .62), estimated metabolic equivalent of tasks (METs; 11.6 vs 11.7; P = .80), maximum heart rate (174 vs 175 beats/min; P = .41), and heart rate at 2 minutes recovery (44 vs 43 beats/min; P = .28). In our secondary analysis, there was neither an association of SCT status with longitudinal changes in fitness nor an association with development of hypertension, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome after adjustment for sex, baseline age, body mass index, fitness, and physical activity. SCT is not associated with reduced fitness in this longitudinal study of young African American adults, suggesting the increased risk for exertion-related sudden death in SCT carriers is unlikely related to fitness. SCT status also is not an independent risk factor for developing hypertension, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome.

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