Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiometabolic disease, but the effect of body composition on vascular aging and arterial stiffness remains uncertain. We investigated relationships among body composition, blood pressure, age, and aortic pulse wave velocity in healthy individuals. Pulse wave velocity in the thoracic aorta, an indicator of central arterial stiffness, was measured in 221 volunteers (range, 18-72 years; mean, 40.3±13 years) who had no history of cardiovascular disease using cardiovascular MRI. In univariate analyses, age (r=0.78; P<0.001) and blood pressure (r=0.41; P<0.001) showed a strong positive association with pulse wave velocity. In multivariate analysis, after adjustment for age, sex, and mean arterial blood pressure, elevated body fat% was associated with reduced aortic stiffness until the age of 50 years, thereafter adiposity had an increasingly positive association with aortic stiffness (β=0.16; P<0.001). Body fat% was positively associated with cardiac output when age, sex, height, and absolute lean mass were adjusted for (β=0.23; P=0.002). These findings suggest that the cardiovascular system of young adults may be capable of adapting to the state of obesity and that an adverse association between body fat and aortic stiffness is only apparent in later life.
Keywords: MRI; aging; aortic stiffness; blood pressure; obesity.