Reducing arterial stiffness – which is when the arterial wall becomes rigid – may help prevent obesity and hypertension in young adults, a study has indicated.

University researchers studied 3,800 adolescents aged 17 for seven years, looking at rates of blood pressure and obesity.

Their findings showed that higher rates of arterial stiffness at age 17 were linked to a 20 per cent increase in the risk of abdominal and whole-body obesity at age 24.

The team, made up of researchers from the University of Eastern Finland, the University of Exeter, and the University of Bristol, say their findings could play a key role in the prevention of high blood pressure and obesity.

Andrew Agbaje, a physician and clinical epidemiologist at the University of Eastern Finland, said: “Our novel findings are significant clinically and for population health, in that future hypertension and obesity prevention and treatment strategies may now consider reducing arterial stiffness, particularly from adolescence.”

High blood pressure and obesity are both known to be risk factors for cardiovascular diseases and death. While both are preventable, global efforts to reduce incidence have had little effect. This has led researchers to look into the how these conditions develop.

The latest study found that higher arterial stiffness during adolescence was linked to a 20 per cent greater risk of developing systolic hypertension seven years later, while the risk of developing diastolic hypertension increased two-fold.

Previous studies have shown that a 5 mmHg rise in blood pressure over the course of five years is linked to a 16 per cent increase in the risk of death in the adult population.

The study has been published in Hypertension.

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