The COVID-19 pandemic and temporal change in metabolic risk factors for cardiovascular disease: A natural experiment within the HELIUS study

Bryn Hummel*, Mara A. Yerkes, Ralf E. Harskamp, Henrike Galenkamp, Anton E. Kunst, Anja Lok, Irene G.M. van Valkengoed

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, including the restrictive measures taken to reduce the spread of the virus, negatively affected people's health behavior. We explored whether the pandemic also had an effect on metabolic risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) in women and men. We conducted a natural experiment, using data from 6962 participants without CVD at baseline (2011–2015) of six ethnic groups of the HELIUS study in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. We studied whether participants whose follow-up measurements were taken within the 11 months before the pandemic (control group) differed from those whose measurements were taken taken within 6 months after the first lockdown (exposed group). Using sex-stratified linear regressions with inverse probability weighting, we compared changes in baseline- and follow-up data between the control and exposed group in six metabolic risk factors: systolic and diastolic blood pressure (SBP, DBP), total cholesterol (TC), fasting plasma glucose (FPG), hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), and estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR). Next, we explored the mediating effect of changes in body-mass index (BMI), alcohol, smoking, depressive symptoms and negative life events at follow-up. We observed less favorable changes in SBP (+1.12mmHg for women, +1.38mmHg for men), DBP (+0.85mmHg, +0.80mmHg) and FPG (only in women, +0.12 mmol/L) over time in the exposed group relative to the control group. Conversely, changes in HbA1c (−0.65 mmol/mol, −0.84 mmol/mol) and eGFR (+1.06 mL/min, +1.04 mL/min) were more favorable in the exposed compared to the control group, respectively. Changes in SBP, DBP, and FPG were partially mediated by changes in behavioral factors, in particular BMI and alcohol consumption. Concluding, the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular behavioral changes associated with restrictive lockdown measures, may have negatively affected several CVD risk factors, in both women and men.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101432
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalSSM - Population Health
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023


  • Cardiometabolic health
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • COVID-19
  • Ethnic differences
  • Sex differences
  • The HELIUS study


Dive into the research topics of 'The COVID-19 pandemic and temporal change in metabolic risk factors for cardiovascular disease: A natural experiment within the HELIUS study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this