Research Nugget

Risk of Cardiovascular Disease in Youth

Despite major advancements in clinical care over the last decades, cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the leading cause of death worldwide. In addition, childhood obesity and elevated blood pressure (BP) have become overwhelmingly challenging, with 57% of today’s children predicted to be obese by the age of 35 years, and global rates of hypertension in children and adolescents from 2000 to 2015 increasing by 75%.

According to research partly funded by the NRF, there is an urgent need for tools that can assess early CVD risk in youth, which may lead to better risk stratification, preventative intervention, and personalised medicine. The study found that:

  • Childhood vascular health has a significant influence on cardiovascular health in adulthood and the presence of early vascular ageing (the deterioration in vascular structure and function) in childhood should act as a warning for future cardiovascular risk;
  • Vascular ageing is a critical progenitor of health degeneration associated with elevated blood pressure (BP); and
  • Exposure to adverse environmental and genetic factors from foetal life promotes the development and accumulation of subclinical vascular changes that direct an individual towards a trajectory of early vascular ageing – an independent predictor of target organ damage in the heart, brain, and kidneys.

The research recommends that longitudinal studies, commencing early in life, with long-term follow-ups, will advance our understanding of the prognostic value of childhood vascular ageing measures. Moreover lifestyle interventions such as increasing exercise levels, weight loss and dietary or antioxidant supplementation have been shown to have beneficial effects on various markers of vascular ageing in children and adolescents.

Read the full paper published in the journal Heart, Lung and Circulation here.