Stiffening of conduit arteries is a risk factor for cardiovascular morbidity. Aortic wall stiffening increases pulsatile hemodynamic forces that are detrimental to the microcirculation in highly perfused organs, such as the heart, brain, and kidney. Arterial stiffness is associated with hypertension but presumed to be due to an adaptive response to increased hemodynamic load. In contrast, a recent clinical study found that stiffness precedes and may contribute to the development of hypertension although the mechanisms underlying hypertension are unknown. Here, we report that in a diet-induced model of obesity, arterial stiffness, measured in vivo, develops within 1 month of the initiation of the diet and precedes the development of hypertension by 5 months. Diet-induced obese mice recapitulate the metabolic syndrome and are characterized by inflammation in visceral fat and aorta. Normalization of the metabolic state by weight loss resulted in return of arterial stiffness and blood pressure to normal. Our findings support the hypothesis that arterial stiffness is a cause rather than a consequence of hypertension.
Keywords: hypertension; inflammation; obesity; pulse wave velocity; vascular stiffness.