Cardiovascular disease risk factors are elevated among a cohort of young sexual and gender minorities in Chicago

  • Ethan Morgan
  • Richard D’Aquila
  • Mercedes R. Carnethon
  • Brian MustanskiEmail author


To date, little research has examined cardiovascular (CVD) risk among young sexual and gender minorities, a population which behavioral research has suggested may be at unique risk of poor CVD outcomes. We assessed behavioral risk factors and biomarkers of CVD risk among young sexual and gender minorities (YSGM) aged 16–29 in Chicago who are participants in the RADAR cohort (analytic N = 936). Multiplex cytokine and inflammatory biomarker assays were run on plasma from all HIV+ participants and demographically-matched HIV- participants (n = 237). Geographic data were used to assess mean C-reactive protein (CRP) level per community area of residence in Chicago. YSGM in this cohort exhibited lower rates of obesity (19.2% in RADAR vs. 35.7% in earlier studies of heterosexual youth) and comparable rates of past 30-day tobacco use (37.9 vs. 38.1%). Conversely, higher rates were observed among several other risk factors including C-reactive protein (mean = 6.9 mg/L vs. 2.1 mg/L), marijuana use (72.5 vs. 45.3%), perceived stress (mean = 15.5 vs. 14.2), and HIV (20.0 vs. < 1% nationally). Finally, we observed geographic heterogeneity in mean CRP values by community area across the Chicago region with the highest and lowest values both found in neighborhoods on the North side of the city. In sum, these analyses demonstrate that YSGM may be at increased risk of CVD beginning from an early age. Future research should assess whether sexual minority-related stressors increase long-term CVD risk and should also longitudinally study the role of multiple risk factors on CVD morbidity and mortality among YSGM.


Cardiovascular disease HIV MSM Inflammation 



The authors would like to thank the entire RADAR research team, particularly Dr. Thomas Remble and Antonia Clifford for overseeing the project and Daniel T. Ryan for data management. We also thank the RADAR participants for sharing their experiences with us. Services were provided by the Third Coast Center for AIDS Research Viral Pathgogenesis Core.


This study was funded by Grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health (F32DA046313, PI: Morgan; U01DA036939, PI: Mustanski; P30AI117943, PI: D’Aquila). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute on Drug Abuse or the National Institutes of Health. The sponsor had no involvement in the conduct of the research or the preparation of the article.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Ethan Morgan, Richard D’Aquila, Mercedes R. Carnethon, and Brian Mustanski declare they have no conflicts of interest.

Human and animal rights and Informed consent

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 13 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and WellbeingNorthwestern UniversityChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases and HIV Translational Research Center, Feinberg School of MedicineNorthwestern UniversityChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Department of Preventative Medicine, Feinberg School of MedicineNorthwestern UniversityChicagoUSA
  4. 4.Department of Medical Social SciencesNorthwestern UniversityChicagoUSA

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