Background: Previous reports have shown that carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT) and arterial stiffness are strong predictors of subsequent cardiovascular disease (CVD) morbidity and mortality, and are well related to an unfavourable cardiovascular risk profile in middle-aged and older subjects. These similarities suggest that arterial stiffness may play a role in the development of atherosclerosis or vice versa. However, studies show conflicting results and are limited to elderly subjects. To study this issue further, we evaluated the relation of arterial stiffness to subclinical atherosclerosis in 524 healthy young adults, aged 27-30 years.
Methods and results: Aortic stiffness was assessed using pulse wave velocity (PWV) and CIMT was used as measure of subclinical atherosclerosis. The positive crude correlation between for mean arterial pressure adjusted PWV and CIMT (Pearson's correlation coefficient: 0.11; P=0.016) attenuated after adjustment for common determinants of both measurements like gender and age (partial correlation coefficient: 0.03; P=0.512). Furthermore, multivariate linear regression models showed that male gender, age and blood pressure were independent determinants of both CIMT and PWV while body mass index and LDL-cholesterol were independent determinants of CIMT only.
Conclusions: These observations suggest that in healthy young adults arterial stiffness and CIMT reflect two separate entities of vascular damage.