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J Clin Nurs. 2008 Sep;17(17):2311-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2007.02155.x. Epub 2008 Jun 5.

The effect of age and gender on arterial stiffness in healthy Caucasian Canadians.

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Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada.



We aimed to investigate age and gender differences in arterial stiffness, and whether this cardiovascular risk factor was detectable in healthy Caucasians before established disease was manifest.


A growing number of risk factors including diabetes, obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidaemia, smoking and age have been linked to the adverse cardiovascular end-points of myocardial infarction, stroke and heart failure. These risk factors lead to an increase in arterial stiffness. Measuring this stiffness at an early age may identify candidates for primary preventative intervention strategies by nurses.


Caucasian Canadians (n = 176) were recruited. Peripheral and central blood pressure, pulse pressure, augmentation pressure, arterial compliance (augmentation index and pulse wave velocity) and sub-endocardial viability ratio (SEVR), were assessed using applanation tonometry (SphygmoCor system). Blood was drawn for fasting lipid and glucose profiling.


Women participants had significantly stiffer arteries than men (augmentation index: 28 SEM = 1% vs. 18 SEM = 2% respectively; p < 0.001). Pulse wave velocity, however, was not different (7.7 SEM = 0.2 m/s vs. 8.3 SEM = 0.1 m/s respectively; p < 0.001). Age was a strong predictor of arterial stiffening in both genders, but the effect was greater in women.


Women having stiffer arteries than men, thus at greater cardiovascular risk, may require earlier screening. The effect might be postmenopausal, and mechanisms require further investigation. However, both middle-aged men and women considering themselves 'healthy' may benefit from more proactive primary prevention.


Applanation tonometry, used extensively by nurses, provides early detection of central haemodynamic changes and vascular compliance at all ages. Knowledge of arterial stiffness could guide the management of primary prevention in the nursing cardiovascular risk reduction clinic.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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