Teenagers who have obesity, type 2 diabetes or high BP may be more likely to have signs of premature blood vessel ageing compared to teenagers without those health conditions, warn researchers.
Over five years, researchers evaluated 141 teens with normal weight; 156 who had obesity; and 151 who had type 2 diabetes, with an average age of 17.6 when the study began.
Increased risk of heart attacks and strokes in later life
At the end of five years, the teens with either obesity, type 2 diabetes or high systolic blood pressure - major risk factors for heart attacks and strokes later in life - were significantly more likely to have thicker and stiffer carotid arteries, the main blood vessel that leads to the brain.
"Our study demonstrates that the slow changes in blood vessels that lead to the development of atherosclerosis begins early in life," said lead study author Justin R Ryder, Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota in the US.
Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the research said that atherosclerosis is the slow narrowing of the arteries usually associated with natural ageing, and it increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular events.
Greater risk of early heart attacks or strokes
Having obesity, type 2 diabetes or high systolic blood pressure were each independently associated with and equally predictive of having thicker and stiffer arteries among this group of young people.
"What surprised our team the most was that participants with higher systolic blood pressure compared to their peers in the study had a very similar risk as those with obesity or type 2 diabetes for thicker and stiffer blood vessels over time," said Ryder.
The analysis concluded that teenagers with obesity, type 2 diabetes or high systolic blood pressure had a greater change in the thickness and stiffness of their arteries, compared to participants in the group with normal weight.
This would suggest a greater risk of early heart attacks or strokes among teenagers with obesity, type 2 diabetes or high systolic blood pressure, the researchers said.