Background: Arterial stiffness, an aging process which is accelerated by hypertension, is emerging as a useful index of vascular health. There are evidences to suggest that hyperinsulinaemia may be an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease, besides its possible pathogenic role in essential hypertension. The main objectives of this study were to compare arterial stiffness between untreated hypertensives and normotensives and to investigate the relationship between fasting serum insulin and arterial stiffness.
Methods: A cross-sectional observational study was designed. Forty normotensive (median age 47 +/- 6 yrs.) and twenty untreated hypertensive Malay men (median age 50 +/- 7 yrs.) without clinical evidence of cardiovascular complications were selected. Pulse wave velocity measured using the automated Complior machine was used as an index of arterial stiffness. Other measurements obtained were blood pressure, body mass index, fasting insulin, cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose and creatinine level.
Results: The blood pressure and pulse wave velocity (PWV) were significantly higher in the hypertensives compared to the normotensives (blood pressure 169/100 mm Hg +/- 14/7 vs. 120/80 mm Hg +/- 10/4, p < 0.001; PWV 11.69 m/s +/- 1.12 vs. 8.83 m/s +/- 1.35, p < 0.001). Other variables such as body mass index, fasting insulin, cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, triglycerides and haematocrit were comparable among the two groups. Within each group, there was a significant positive correlation between pulse wave velocity and systolic blood pressure (r = 0.76, p < 0.001 in normotensives; r = 0.73, p < 0.001 in hypertensives) and mean arterial pressure (r = 0.74, p < 0.001 in normotensives; r = 0.73, p < 0.001 in hypertensives). No correlation was noted between pulse wave velocity and diastolic blood pressure, age, body mass index, fasting insulin level, cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
Conclusion: Arterial stiffness as determined by PWV is increased in newly diagnosed untreated hypertensive subjects even before clinically evident cardiovascular disease. However, arterial stiffness is not correlated with the fasting insulin level in normotensives and newly diagnosed hypertensives.