Arterial stiffness changes in patients with cardiovascular risk factors but normal carotid intima–media thickness

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Abstract

Aims

We aimed to evaluate, through an Echotracking system, the functional changes of carotid arteries with relation to the amount of cardiovascular risk factors in patients without structural atherosclerotic damage.

Methods

From a series of 260 asymptomatic consecutive patients we selected 75 patients (mean age: 47 ± 8 years) with normal intima–media thickness (IMT) and without atherosclerotic plaques. In these patients, local arterial stiffness parameters were evaluated using a simple Echotracking system. Patients were divided in three groups: group 1 (n = 25 patients without risk factors), group 2 (n = 23 patients with one risk factor) and group 3 (n = 27 patients with two or more risk factors).

Results

Carotid IMT was similar in all groups (P = ns). On the contrary, stiffness parameters progressively increased according to the number of risk factors [pulse wave velocity (PWV) = 5.8 ± 1.1 m/s, 6.4 ± 1.2 m/s and 6.7 ± 1.4 m/s in Group 1, 2 and 3, respectively, P = 0.002; β-index = 7.5 ± 3.4, 8.5 ± 3.2 and 9.5 ± 4.7 in Group 1, 2 and 3, respectively, P = 0.047]. Furthermore, on multivariate linear regression analysis, PWV and β-index significantly correlated (P = 0.002 and P = 0.048, respectively) with the number of risk factors even when adjusted for age, gender and current therapy.

Conclusion

In a population with normal carotid IMT and without plaques, changes in arterial stiffness are significantly related to the number of risk factors. This information could be relevant for a more tailored primary prevention in patients with risk factors even in absence of structural atherosclerotic abnormalities.

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