The two faces of hypertension: role of aortic stiffness

J Am Soc Hypertens. 2016 Feb;10(2):175-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jash.2015.11.012. Epub 2015 Nov 26.


Adult hypertension can be divided into two relatively distinct forms-systolic/diastolic hypertension in midlife and systolic hypertension of the aged. The two types differ in prevalence, pathophysiology, and therapy. The prevalence of systolic hypertension in the elderly is twice that of midlife hypertension. The systolic pressure is elevated in both forms, but the high diastolic pressure in midlife is due to a raised total peripheral resistance, whereas the normal or low diastolic pressure in the elderly is due to aortic stiffening. Aortic stiffness, as measured by the carotid/femoral pulse wave velocity, has been found to be a cardiovascular risk marker independent of traditional risk factors for atherosclerosis. Instead, it is related to microcirculatory disease of the brain and kidney and to disorders of inflammation. Loss of aortic distensibility is an inevitable consequence of aging, but a review of its causes suggests that it may be amenable to future pharmacologic therapy.

Keywords: Aging; Arteriosclerosis; Atherosclerosis; Pulse wave velocity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Aminobutyrates / adverse effects
  • Aminobutyrates / therapeutic use
  • Angiotensin Receptor Antagonists / adverse effects
  • Angiotensin Receptor Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Aorta / physiopathology*
  • Arteriosclerosis / complications*
  • Arteriosclerosis / physiopathology
  • Biphenyl Compounds
  • Blood Pressure*
  • Diastole
  • Drug Combinations
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / drug therapy
  • Hypertension / epidemiology*
  • Hypertension / physiopathology*
  • Microcirculation
  • Prevalence
  • Pulse Wave Analysis
  • Pyridines / adverse effects
  • Pyridines / therapeutic use
  • Risk Factors
  • Systole
  • Tetrazoles / adverse effects
  • Tetrazoles / therapeutic use
  • Thiazepines / adverse effects
  • Thiazepines / therapeutic use
  • Valsartan
  • Vascular Resistance
  • Vascular Stiffness*


  • Aminobutyrates
  • Angiotensin Receptor Antagonists
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Antihypertensive Agents
  • Biphenyl Compounds
  • Drug Combinations
  • Pyridines
  • Tetrazoles
  • Thiazepines
  • omapatrilat
  • Valsartan
  • sacubitril and valsartan sodium hydrate drug combination