Structural changes in the retina of adolescents could signal cardiovascular disease risk, say researchers.
The findings showed adolescents -- particularly males -- with poorer health-related quality of life had wider arteriolar and narrower venular blood vessels in the retina.
"These particular changes are possible indicators for future cardiovascular disease risk," said lead researcher Bamini Gopinath, Associate Professor at The Westmead Institute for Medical Research in Sydney, Australia.
The research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed adolescents with poorer scores in the social and mental well-being domains of "health-related quality of life" have structural changes in their retinal blood vessels that could be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in later life.
"Poor well-being and certain structural changes to the retina are both associated with an increased risk of future cardiovascular disease," Gopinath said.
Importantly, the health-related quality of life measures were independently linked to the structural changes we observed.
This means the changes will still occur, even if no traditional risk factors, such as higher body mass and blood pressure, are present.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death globally -- more people die annually from CVDs than from any other cause.
An estimated 17.7 million people died from cardiovascular disease in 2015, representing 31 per cent of all global deaths.
Early intervention is the key for preventing the disease in those with an increased risk.
"Our findings suggest that in the future, health-related quality of life assessments could also be used to improve or add to existing evaluations of adolescent cardiovascular health," Gopinath said.