Obesity is associated with increased arterial stiffness from adolescence until old age

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Abstract

Objective

To our knowledge, only two previous studies have investigated the age dependence of the relationship between the characteristics of large arteries and excessive body weight. We therefore investigated whether the relationship between arterial stiffness and body mass index (BMI) was consistent across an age range from 10 to 86 years.

Methods

Using a cross-sectional population-based design, we randomly recruited 1306 individuals (median age 43.9 years; 50.5% women). Using a wall-tracking ultrasound system, we measured the properties of the carotid, femoral and brachial arteries and carotid–femoral pulse wave velocity. We analysed men and women separately while adjusting for significant covariates, including age, mean arterial pressure, heart rate, current smoking, alcohol intake and use of antihypertensive drugs.

Results

Before and after adjustment, arterial diameter increased with BMI in all territories, with an opposite trend for arterial distensibility. In men and women, the relationships of brachial and femoral properties with BMI were consistent across the whole age range. In men and women, carotid distensibility decreased more with BMI at young than old age. In middle-aged and older women, but not in men of any age, pulse wave velocity increased with higher BMI.

Conclusions

Across a wide age range, the diameter and stiffness of muscular arteries increased with higher BMI. In elastic arteries, the relationship between arterial stiffness and BMI was more complex and varied with sex and age. The mechanisms underlying the influence of adiposity on the properties of muscular and elastic arteries and the reversibility of these associations by weight reduction at young age need further clarification.

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