Number of Offspring and Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Men and Women: The Role of Shared Lifestyle Characteristics

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Previous studies of the number of offspring and cardiovascular disease (CVD) report conflicting findings. We re-examined this association in both sexes to clarify the role of the cardiometabolic changes that women experience during pregnancy versus shared lifestyle characteristics.


We studied 180,626 women and 133,259 men participating in the UK Biobank cohort who were free of CVD at baseline. CVD events were obtained from hospital and death registers. Analyses were conducted using Cox proportional hazards regression.


The incidence rates of overall CVD were six per 1000 person-years for women and nine per 1000 person-years for men. Number of children showed an association with risk of CVD among women; the adjusted HR (95% CI) was 1.2 (1.1, 1.3) for one, 1.1 (1.0, 1.2) for two, 1.2 (1.1, 1.3) for three, and 1.2 (1.1, 1.4) for four or more as compared to none. Number of children was also associated with CVD among men; the adjusted HR (95% CI) was 1.1 (1.0, 1.2) for one, 1.0 (0.96, 1.1) for two, 1.1 (1.0, 1.2) for three, and 1.1 (1.0, 1.3) for four or more as compared to none. There was no evidence of heterogeneity in the associations between sexes (Pinteraction = 0.80). Number of offspring also showed similar associations with ischemic heart disease and hypertensive disorders in both sexes.


We observed similar associations between number of offspring and CVD in both sexes. The association among women might therefore be largely explained by unobserved behavioral and lifestyle characteristics.

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