Background: The relationship between aortic (carotid-femoral) pulse wave velocity and stiffness measures based on local diameter and pressure readings is not yet fully understood.
Methods: We compared the relationship with age and gender of aortic pulse wave velocity to stiffness indices (compliance and distensibility coefficient) evaluated at the common carotid and femoral arteries in 2195 (1131 women) apparently healthy subjects, aged 35-55 years participating in the Asklepios study. Aortic pulse wave velocity was further compared with previously reported central arterial stiffness parameters on the same population. Subjects were divided into four age groups for analysis.
Results: Femoral arterial stiffness was higher in men than in women (P < 0.001) but did not change with age and no age-gender interaction was evident. Carotid arterial stiffness increased with age (P < 0.001) and showed a significant (P < 0.001) age-gender interaction, with carotid stiffness increasing more rapidly in women than in men, crossing over around the age of 45. Aortic pulse wave velocity did not differ between men and women, but did increase with age (P < 0.001). No age-gender interaction was evident.
Conclusion: The relation with age and gender of local and central stiffness measures is not the same over the age range 35-55 in apparently healthy men and women. Depending on the central stiffness parameter used, age-gender effects evident at the carotid artery are or are not found centrally. Though the relevance of these differences requires further evaluation in a longitudinal study with outcome data, they need to be kept in mind when designing or interpreting results from arterial stiffness evaluation studies.