Diagnostic Yield of a Systematic Vascular Health Screening Approach in Adolescents at Schools



      A significant proportion of noncommunicable diseases in adults has its roots in adolescence, and this is particularly true for cardiovascular disease and stroke. Detection of vascular and metabolic risk factors at young ages may aid disease prevention.


      In 2,088 adolescents sampled from the general population of Tyrol, Austria, and South Tyrol, Italy, we systematically assessed the frequency of yet unknown vascular and metabolic risk conditions that require further diagnostic workup or intervention (lifestyle counselling or pharmacotherapy). The health screening included medical history taking, fasting blood analysis, and blood pressure and body measurements and was performed at schools. To recruit a representative sample of adolescents, equal proportions (about 67%) of schools were invited per school type and region.


      Adolescents were on average 16.4 (standard deviation 1.1) years old, and 56.4% were female. A proportion of 22.8% (95% confidence interval [CI], 19.6–26.3) had previous or current physician-confirmed diseases. The health screening newly detected relevant medical conditions in 45.4% [95% CI, 41.5–49.4] (55.8% [95% CI, 52.7–58.7] in boys and 37.4% [95% CI, 35.0–39.8] in girls, p < .001). The most prevalent were elevated blood pressure and hypertension, metabolic syndrome, hypercholesterolemia, hypertriglyceridemia, hyperuricemia, and subclinical hypothyroidism. Detection of risk conditions did not depend on socioeconomic status but increased with age and body mass index.


      Vascular health screening in adolescents at schools has a high diagnostic yield and may aid guideline-recommended prevention in the youth. Implementation should carefully consider national differences in healthcare systems, resources, and existing programs.


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