Arterial Stiffening in Perspective: Advances in Physical and Physiological Science Over Centuries

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Abstract

Arterial stiffening is not a new issue in medicine or research but was the prime concern of Richard Bright in the early 19th century and of the prominent London physicians and pathologists who tried to unscramble the relationship between kidney, heart, and cerebrovascular disease and hardness of the pulse in the late 19th century. It was of major concern to medical educators including Osler and Mackenzie who were still active in practice 100 years ago. It is all too easy (when dependent on the Internet) to consider arterial stiffness to be a new issue. The terms arterial stiffness, aortic stiffness, or wave reflection do not appear as categories for articles such as this in respectable journals, nor in categories for meetings of specialized physicians. Yet as described in this article, the subject was of interest to clinicians, to investigators such as Harvey in the 17th century, and to physicists who developed laws and principles of elasticity from the study of biological materials including ligaments and arteries. This paper provides a perspective on arterial stiffness from the time of William Harvey and Isaac Newton to the present, with a glance into the future.

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