Adults face a greater risk of cardiovascular disease and hypertension if they had unhealthy lifestyles as children, according to new research.
Scientists at the Centre for Vision Research at the University of Sydney in Australia found that those who watched too much TV or did not have enough exercise were more likely to suffer early artery damage.
In their research they discovered children, some as young as six, with narrowed blood vessels in their eyes - a known warning sign of an increased risk of heart disease.
The study, which measured tiny differences in the size of micro-arteries at the back of the eye, found those with a high level of physical activity had a more beneficial microvascular profile compared to those with the lowest levels of physical activity.
It found that sedentary children had an average “retinal arteriolar” narrowing of 2.3 microns (a micron is one thousandth of a millimetre), while those who regularly participated in outdoor games and exercise had retinal blood vessels that were 2.2 microns wider.
The narrowing associated with each extra hour of TV or computer viewing was similar to that which accompanies a blood pressure increase in children of 10mm of mercury (mmHG).
Lead researcher Dr Bamini Gopinath said: “This suggests that unhealthy lifestyle factors may influence microcirculation early in life and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and hypertension (high blood pressure) later in life.”