Article Abstract

Vascular health determinants in children

Authors: Birgit Böhm, Renate Oberhoffer


Background: The epidemic of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the twentieth century generated numerous population-based surveys. These results clearly demonstrate that many factors are causally related to the development of atherosclerosis. Eighty percent of the CVD can be explained by smoking, high blood pressure, deterioration of lipid and glucose metabolism and physical inactivity. CVD is a disease that becomes clinically apparent in adults. However, it is undisputed that this disease develops over a long period of time due to progressive, subclinical changes in the cardiovascular system. The early manifestation of arteriosclerosis correlates with traditional risk factors.
Methods: This brief report focusses on determinates of vascular health. It describes non-invasive diagnostic methods such as oscillometric analysis of pulse wave velocity (PWV), ultrasound measurement of carotid structure and function as well as brachial endothelial function. Special attention is paid to possible correlations with physical activity, fitness and exercise.
Results: Non-invasive diagnostic methods to determine vascular health are applicable in children. The influence of physical activity and the relationship between aerobic fitness and arterial compliance (AC) remain controversial. First results in young athletes demonstrated an increased carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT), by revealing arterial elasticity. The mechanism and determinants explaining these adaptations have not been fully explained in young healthy athletes.
Conclusions: Traditional cardiovascular risk factors act early in life and have a major impact on the development of atherosclerosis. The results underline that the prevention strategies and risk factor control should begin in childhood. The emphasis in the present report lied on the determination of vascular health, analyzing arterial structure and function, using non-invasive diagnostic methods. Vascular health and its relation to obesity, hypertension, physical activity and exercise were emphasized. The harmonization of knowledge and methods would greatly increase the comparability of existing results. To further elucidate the clinical relevance, the mechanisms linking arterial structure and compliance function with physical activity, fitness and exercise need further clinical investigation to enhance early preventive intervention strategies.