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Hypertension. 1996 May;27(5):1046-52.

Cardiac and vascular structural changes. Prevalence and relation to ambulatory blood pressure in a middle-aged general population in northern Italy: the Vobarno Study.

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Cattedra di Semeiotica e Metodologia Medica, Università di Brescia, Italy.


The aims of this study were to determine the prevalence of structural changes in the carotid arteries and heart and the correlation between these changes and the commonly recognized cardiovascular risk factors in the general population. Structural changes in the carotid arteries were defined as the intima-media thickness of the artery measured by B-mode ultrasound. Changes in the heart were defined as left ventricular mass index (LVMI) measured by echocardiography. LVMI values greater than 134 g/m2 in men and greater than 110 g/m2 in women were considered abnormal, indicating the presence of left ventricular hypertrophy. Blood pressure (BP) was measured in the clinic setting with a mercury sphygmomanometer and by 24-hour noninvasive ambulatory monitoring. Hypertension was defined as a sustained systolic BP greater than or equal to 160 mm Hg and/or diastolic BP increase greater than or equal to 95 mm Hg. The study population consisted of 225 subjects (107 women and 118 men) 48 to 64 years old. Prevalence of intima-media thickening (intima-media thickness > 1 mm) was 11% in normotensive subjects and 44% in hypertensive subjects. The presence of plaque (wall thickening with either mineralization or focal protrusion in the lumen at least 50% greater than the surrounding wall, usually > 2 mm) was observed in 35% of normotensive subjects and 44% of hypertensive subjects. The prevalence of left ventricular hypertrophy was 13% in normotensive subjects and 19% in hypertensive subjects. Intima-media thickness in the common and bifurcation segments of carotid arteries correlated well with LVMI (r = .20 and r = .19, respectively; P < .01). Intima-media thickness and LVMI were both positively related to 24-hour monitored BP (P < .01). However, in the multivariate analysis, body mass index (P = .027), sex (P < .001), and 24-hour mean BP (P = .025) were the most significant determinants of LVMI, whereas carotid artery intima-media thickness was found to be associated best with age (P < .001), cigarette smoking (P = .009), serum cholesterol (P = .025), serum glucose (P = .038), and nighttime systolic BP (P = .006). Logistic regression analysis confirmed the association between the presence of plaque and age (P < .001), nighttime systolic BP (P < .05), and cigarette smoking (P < .05); a negative association between plaque and the decrease in mean systolic BP daytime to nighttime was also observed (P < .001). In conclusion, in a general population of unselected middle-aged subjects, carotid wall thickness and LVMI were associated with each other and related to 24-hour BP levels although the major determinants of carotid wall and cardiac structure were different.

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