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Hypertension. 2001 Dec 1;38(6):1461-6.

Pressure amplification explains why pulse pressure is unrelated to risk in young subjects.

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  • 1Clinical Pharmacology Unit, University of Cambridge, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, United Kingdom.


Pulse pressure rather than diastolic pressure is the best predictor of coronary heart disease risk in older subjects, but the converse is true in younger subjects. We hypothesized that this disparity results from an age-related difference in pressure amplification from the aorta to brachial artery. Data from 212 subjects age < 50 years and 230 subjects age > or =50 years were abstracted from a community database. All subjects were free from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and medication. Peripheral blood pressure was assessed by sphygmomanometry. Radial artery waveforms recorded noninvasively by applanation tonometry were used to derive central blood pressure. Pressure amplification (peripheral/central pulse pressure ratio) was linearly related to age (r=0.7; P<0.001). There was an inverse, linear relationship between amplification and diastolic pressure in the younger group (r=0.3; P<0.001) but not in older subjects (r=0.1; P=0.2). There was no relationship in either group when the amplification ratio was calculated with nonaugmented central pressure. Amplification is reduced in older subjects because of enhanced wave reflection. In younger, but not older, subjects, amplification declines as diastolic pressure rises. Therefore, peripheral pulse pressure underestimates the effect that diastolic pressure has on central pulse pressure in younger subjects. This may explain why diastolic pressure is a better predictor of risk in this age group and suggests that assessment of central pressure may improve risk stratification further.

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