Adolescent Arterial Stiffness and the Risk of Hypertension and Metabolic Disease - EMJ

Adolescent Arterial Stiffness and the Risk of Hypertension and Metabolic Disease

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RAISED adolescent arterial stiffness could potentially be a novel risk factor for cardiovascular and metabolic disease. This in turn could lead to the creation of early intervention strategies to prevent future development of conditions, such as hypertension and Type 2 diabetes (T2D). Possible risk factors for elevated arterial stiffness in adolescence include maternal and early life smoking, genetic inheritance, obesity, and high salt consumption. Whilst arterial stiffness is a known risk for cardiovascular disease and mortality in adults, the implication for the adolescent population is less well described. 

New data from a prospective review of a large adolescent and middle-aged cohort highlighted adolescent arterial stiffness as a risk factor for developing hypertension, obesity, insulin resistance, altered lipid metabolism, and T2D in later life. Study lead Andrew Agbaje, Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition, School of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland, stated: “Arterial stiffening in adolescence seems to be a subtle, stealthy, but potent risk factor for high blood pressure and metabolic alteration initiating a cascade of biological events finally leading to disease formation such as Type 2 diabetes mellitus and premature organ damage.” Further to this, Agbaje added that the development of an intervention for arterial stiffness in adolescents could result in a reduction in incidence of hypertension and T2D in later years. 

These findings could prove to be significant for future prevention strategies, given the high global prevalence of hypertension and T2D, and the subsequent burden of secondary complications that arise from these conditions. Agbaje further added that it is crucial for “clinicians, paediatricians, public health experts, and policymakers to focus on ways to treat, reduce, and possibly reverse arterial stiffness, particularly from adolescence.”  

Ultimately, implementing early prevention strategies for those who display raised adolescent arterial stiffness could lead to a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic disease, improved quality of life, and reduced burden to health services. Further research will be required to provide consensus and assist with planning of potential intervention strategies. 

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