Background: The dynamic elastic modulus of central arteries is very frequency-dependent Although resting heart rate is a potent independent risk factor for morbidity and mortality both from cardiovascular and from noncardiovascular disease, no link between tachycardia and arterial stiffness has ever been established.
Objective: To relate arterial stiffness to heart rate in a population with relatively low cardiovascular risk.
Methods: Pulse-wave velocity measurements and high-resolution echo-tracking techniques were used to determine the degree of arterial distension (of carotid and femoral arteries, and terminal aorta) and the velocity of the pulse wave (aorta and upper and lower limbs) at the same time as heart rate, in members of a large population of normotensive and hypertensive subjects in a multicenter study in Paris, Fleury-Merogis and Grenoble (France).
Results: A high heart rate was strongly associated with reduced distension and elevated pulse-wave velocity, even after adjustment for age and blood pressure. A high aortic pulse-wave velocity was also negatively associated with a low baroreflex sensitivity. The most significant associations between high heart rate and high arterial rigidity were found for the carotid artery, the thoracic aorta, and the lower limbs, but there was no significant result for the terminal aorta and the arm arteries.
Conclusion: This study demonstrates that there is a statistically significant positive link between high heart rate and high arterial stiffness measured at the site of central and lower limb arteries. Since an elevated heart rate has been shown to be associated with cardiovascular risk, such findings may be relevant for future cardiovascular studies in epidemiology.