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To assess the effect of selected clinical and biochemical parameters, with particular consideration of familial hypertension, on the pulse wave velocity (PWV) in young normotensives.Seventy voluntary students were enrolled (mean age 22.3 ± 2.1 years), 39 men and 31 women, with normal blood pressure. A history was obtained with respect to diabetes mellitus, ischaemic heart disease, lipid disorders and arterial hypertension in the family. The subjects were subdivided into two groups: those with (n = 33) and without (n = 37) a family history of arterial hypertension, and blood pressure and heart rate were measured three times and total cholesterol and its subfractions determined in plasma. The carotid to femoral PWV was measured using an automatic computerized recorder and analysed by the Complior® program.The subjects with a family history of arterial hypertension had higher blood pressure levels (systolic and diastolic blood pressure, pulse pressure and mean arterial pressure), as well as mean body mass index and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. The PWV in this group did not differ from that in the subjects without a family history of arterial hypertension (9.69 ± 2.8 versus 9.32 ± 2.0). However, the PWV was significantly higher in males than females (10.62 ± 2.2 versus 7.86 ± 1.13, P < 0.0001) and there was a significant positive correlation between male gender and PWV.Familial arterial hypertension does not significantly affect aortic stiffness in terms of PWV. Male gender in this population of young healthy subjects is one of the most important factors associated with central arterial stiffness.