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Hypertension. 2003 Oct;42(4):468-73. Epub 2003 Sep 2.

Measures of obesity are associated with vascular stiffness in young and older adults.

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


Obesity has reached epidemic levels and carries a risk for cardiovascular disease. Obesity's effects on the vascular systems of young adults and African Americans have not been well characterized. The aim of this study was to assess the association between measures of obesity and aortic stiffness in 186 young adults (20 to 40 years, 50% African American) and 177 older adults (41 to 70 years, 33% African American). Aortic stiffness was measured by aortic pulse-wave velocity. The median pulse-wave velocity value was 468 cm/s for young adults and 627 cm/s for older adults (P<0.001). Higher body weight, body mass index, waist and hip circumferences, and waist-hip ratio were strongly correlated with higher pulse-wave velocity, independent of age, systolic blood pressure, race, and sex overall and among both age groups (P<0.01 for all). Even among the 20- to 30-year-olds, obese individuals (body mass index>30) had a mean pulse-wave velocity value 47 cm/s higher than did nonobese individuals (P<0.001). Obesity measures were among the strongest independent predictors of pulse-wave velocity overall and for both age groups. Results were consistent by race. In conclusion, excess body weight is associated with higher aortic stiffness in whites and African Americans as young as 20 to 30 years. The strength of the association, the early age at which it appears, and the prevalence of obesity among the young warn of substantially increased cardiovascular disease incidence as this cohort ages.

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