Honors Projects

Associations Between Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors and Academic Success in the First Semester of College

Christopher Walls



Background: Most college students do not perceive themselves to be at risk of cardiovascular (CV) disease. This study’s purpose was to determine the prevalence of CV risk factors among first-semester college students and explore its relationship with academic success.

Methods: First-semester college students (n=66, 56.1% female, age 18.4±0.5, BMI 25.5±6.1 kg/m2) enrolled in a seminar course completed assessments for blood pressure (BP; automated cuff), CV recovery (YMCA 3-minute step test), and daily steps (FitBit) in August/September and November/December. Grade point average (GPA) was obtained from the university registrar. Paired t-tests were used to determine change from beginning to end of semester. Pearson correlation coefficients were used to identify associations between variables.

Results: During first semester of college, systolic BP increased (124.3±14.1 to 128.0±15.1 mmHg, p=0.043) and daily steps decreased (10,397±3392 to 7186±2658 steps). Diastolic BP (78.8±14.1 to 81.1±8.4 mmHg) and CV recovery (i.e., pulse following 3-step test; 110.2±22.1 to 111.3±22.7 beats/minute) did not change significantly. GPA and daily step change were positively correlated (r=0.557, p=0.001), meaning that higher GPA was associated with increases (or maintenance of) daily steps. GPA and cardiovascular recovery were negatively associated (r=-0.400, p=0.001), meaning that higher GPA was associated with better CV recovery (i.e., lower pulse following step test).

Conclusions: These data indicate CV risk factors are prevalent among college students and have implications on academic success. Targeted CV disease education warranted in college students.