The Use of Retinal Microvascular Function and Telomere Length in Age and Blood Pressure Prediction in Individuals with Low Cardiovascular Risk

Hala Shokr, Victoria Lush, Irundika Hk Dias, Anikó Ekárt, Gustavo De Moraes, Doina Gherghel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ageing represents a major risk factor for many pathologies that limit human lifespan, including cardiovascular diseases. Biological ageing is a good biomarker to assess early individual risk for CVD. However, finding good measurements of biological ageing is an ongoing quest. This study aims to assess the use retinal microvascular function, separate or in combination with telomere length, as a predictor for age and systemic blood pressure in individuals with low cardiovascular risk. In all, 123 healthy participants with low cardiovascular risk were recruited and divided into three groups: group 1 (less than 30 years old), group 2 (31-50 years old) and group 3 (over 50 years old). Relative telomere length (RTL), parameters of retinal microvascular function, CVD circulatory markers and blood pressure (BP) were measured in all individuals. Symbolic regression- analysis was used to infer chronological age and systemic BP measurements using either RTL or a combination of RTL and parameters for retinal microvascular function. RTL decreased significantly with age ( = 0.010). There were also age-related differences between the study groups in retinal arterial time to maximum dilation ( = 0.005), maximum constriction ( = 0.007) and maximum constriction percentage ( = 0.010). In the youngest participants, the error between predicted versus actual values for the chronological age were smallest in the case of using both retinal vascular functions only ( = 0.039) or the combination of this parameter with RTL ( = 0.0045). Systolic BP was better predicted by RTL also only in younger individuals ( = 0.043). The assessment of retinal arterial vascular function is a better predictor than RTL for non-modifiable variables such as age, and only in younger individuals. In the same age group, RTL is better than microvascular function when inferring modifiable risk factors for CVDs. In older individuals, the accumulation of physiological and structural biological changes makes such predictions unreliable.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3037
Number of pages15
Issue number19
Early online date28 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license


  • Aged
  • blood pressure
  • Adult
  • Risk Factors
  • regression
  • Telomere
  • biological age
  • Middle Aged
  • telomeres
  • Cardiovascular Diseases
  • Biomarkers
  • prediction
  • Humans
  • Blood Pressure - physiology
  • Heart Disease Risk Factors


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