Leucocyte telomere length (LTL) is associated with age-related health outcomes, but only few longitudinal studies have assessed changes in LTL in an ageing population.
A total of 1,082 subjects from the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study (born 1934-1944), undergoing two clinical visits ∼10 years apart, were studied. Relative LTL was measured twice by quantitative real-time PCR. Simple and multiple regressions were used to study associations between cardiometabolic risk factors and LTL.
Telomere shortening was observed in 93.7%, and telomere elongation in 6.3% of the study participants. Telomere shortening was more rapid among males (-39.5% ± 1.1% versus -35.5% ± 1.0%, P < 0.01). In men a decrease in weight, waist circumference, BMI, and body fat percentage were all associated with telomere shortening during the follow-up (P < 0.05) independently of age and use of medication. Furthermore, higher body fat percentage and higher HDL-cholesterol level were associated with a slower rate of shortening in LTL (P < 0.05). Lower blood pressure levels were also associated with slower rate of telomere shortening in men (P < 0.05). No similar associations were observed among women.
A decrease in adiposity was associated with telomere shortening, and higher body fat percentage and HDL-cholesterol were associated with a slower rate of shortening in telomere length in men.