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Hypertens Res. 2016 Oct;39(10):730-736. doi: 10.1038/hr.2016.48. Epub 2016 May 18.

Retinal vessel caliber and its relationship with nocturnal blood pressure dipping status: the SABPA study.

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Hypertension in Africa Research Team, Faculty of Health Sciences, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa.
MRC Research Unit for Hypertension and Cardiovascular disease, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa.
Department of Medicine and Healthcare, Faculty of Medical Science, Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford, UK.
IMEDOS Systems UG, Jena, Germany.


Adverse changes in retinal microvasculature caliber are associated with incident hypertension, coronary heart disease and stroke. The absence of a nocturnal dipping in arterial pressure may induce changes throughout the vascular tree, including the retinal microvasculature, but the later link is not sufficiently studied. We explored the relationship between retinal vessel caliber and dipping status in a group of black and white teachers. The study included black (n=68) and white (n=81) men (24-66 years) from the SABPA study. We measured 24 h ambulatory blood pressure and the percentage mean arterial pressure dipping(%MAPdip) was calculated as (diurnal MAP-nocturnal MAP)/diurnal MAP × 100. Retinal images were captured and the central retinal artery equivalent (CRAE) and central retinal vein equivalent (CRVE) calculated. Black men demonstrated higher diurnal and nocturnal MAP (P⩽0.001) and a lesser %MAPdip compared with white men (P=0.047). When stratified by dipping status, black non-dippers (n=33) revealed an increased CRVE (P<0.001) compared with their dipper counterparts (n=35). In black men, CRVE was negatively (R2=0.38, β=-0.47, P<0.001) associated with %MAPdip independent of 24 h MAP or nocturnal MAP. CRVE also associated negatively with dipping status as a dichotomized variable (R2=0.29, β=-0.32, P=0.006), independent of 24 h MAP. These associations were absent in the white men. In conclusion, in this group of black men, a non-dipping blood pressure profile was associated with a larger CRVE, suggesting microvascular deterioration due to the absence of nocturnal dipping in blood pressure. This may add to our understanding of the stroke risk in black populations.

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