The early life origins of vascular ageing and cardiovascular risk: the EVA syndrome

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Early vascular ageing is common in patients with hypertension and increased burden of cardiovascular risk factors, often influenced by chronic inflammation. One aspect of this vascular ageing is arterial stiffening, as measured by increased pulse wave velocity or augmentation index and central pressure. Several studies have indicated that this process starts early in life and that arterial function and ageing properties could be programmed during foetal life or influenced by adverse growth patterns in early postnatal life. This could explain the repeated findings in observational epidemiology that an inverse association exists between birth weight, adjusted for gestational age, and systolic blood pressure elevation in childhood, adolescence and adulthood, as well as for increased cardiovascular risk. One new marker of increased pulse pressure and arterial ageing is telomere length, as regulated by telomerase enzymatic activity. Future studies will hopefully shed light on the possibilities to halt or even reverse vascular ageing, and thereby also influence telomere biology and its different expressions.

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