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Hypertension. 2001 Sep;38(3):429-33.

Aortic stiffness is associated with visceral adiposity in older adults enrolled in the study of health, aging, and body composition.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA.


The central arteries stiffen with age, causing hemodynamic alterations that have been associated with cardiovascular events. Changes in body fat with age may be related to aortic stiffening. The association between vascular stiffness and body fat was evaluated in 2488 older adults (mean age, 74 years; 52% female; 40% black) enrolled in the Study of Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC), a prospective study of changes in weight and body composition. Clinical sites were located in Pittsburgh, Pa, and Memphis, Tenn. Aortic pulse wave velocity was used as an indirect measure of aortic stiffness. A faster pulse wave velocity indicates a stiffer aorta. Body fat measures were evaluated with dual energy x-ray absorptiometry and computed tomography. Independent of age and blood pressure, pulse wave velocity was positively associated with weight, abdominal circumference, abdominal subcutaneous fat, abdominal visceral fat, thigh fat area, and total fat (P<0.001 for all). The strongest association was with abdominal visceral fat. Elevated pulse wave velocity was also positively associated with history of diabetes and higher levels of glucose, insulin, and hemoglobin A1c (P<0.001 for all). In multivariate analysis, independent positive associations with pulse wave velocity were found for age, systolic blood pressure, heart rate, abdominal visceral fat, smoking, hemoglobin A1c, and history of hypertension. The association between pulse wave velocity and abdominal visceral fat was consistent across tertiles of body weight. Among older adults, higher levels of visceral fat are associated with greater aortic stiffness as measured by pulse wave velocity.

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