Cardiovascular health in childhood
The risk factors for heart disease begin to develop in childhood and are associated with adverse outcomes in adulthood. Risk factors such as childhood obesity and elevated blood pressure have become extremely common. 57% of today’s children are expected to be obese by the time they are 35 years of age and there has been a 75% increase in prevalence of high blood pressure in youth between 2000 to 2015. Thus, identifying factors that contribute to cardiovascular health (CVH) in childhood; establishing ways to detect risk early; and developing effective strategies to improve CVH in childhood is now critical.
Since 2017, Australian and French researchers have been working together to investigate CVH in early life. Dr Rachel Climie (Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania) was supported by a Prestige and Marie Currie Fellowship to spend 2 years working as a Postdoctoral Researcher with Professor Jean-Philippe Empana from Paris Cardiovascular Research Centre (PARCC). In collaboration with researchers from Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Statistics (CRESS) INSERM and using data from the EDEN study and European Lifecycle study, the researchers are working to identify the early life determinants of ideal CVH and associations with outcomes later in life.
The research team has established the international Youth Vascular Consortium, which aims to investigate the determinants and prognostic value of premature blood vessel ageing from childhood. It is expected that the Consortium will deliver internationally applicable reference values for blood vessel ageing in youth and provide a predictive index for early vessel ageing which could be used in clinical practice for early detection/risk classification.
Dr Climie and Prof Empana are also part of the European research project LongITools, studying the interactions between the environment, lifestyle and health in determining the risks of cardio-metabolic disease across the life course.
Dr Climie and Prof Empana are now planning to implement some intervention studies to tackle poor CVH in children, both in Australia and France.
Working collaboratively between Australia and France has enabled Dr Climie and Prof Empana to tackle the issue of poor CVH in childhood on a larger scale. The research team have access to large studies in Europe and the possibility to implement interventions in Australia, which will be replicated in France.