BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Studies of the association between arterial stiffness and atherosclerosis are contradictory. We studied stiffness of the aorta and the common carotid artery in relation to several indicators of atherosclerosis. METHODS: This study was conducted within the Rotterdam Study in >3000 elderly subjects aged 60 to 101 years. Aortic stiffness was assessed by measuring carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity, and common carotid artery stiffness was assessed by measuring common carotid distensibility. Atherosclerosis was assessed by common carotid intima-media thickness, plaques in the carotid artery and in the aorta, and the presence of peripheral arterial disease. Data were analyzed by ANCOVA with adjustment for age, sex, mean arterial pressure, and heart rate. RESULTS: Both aortic and common carotid artery stiffness were found to have a strong positive association with common carotid intima-media thickness, severity of plaques in the carotid artery, and severity of plaques in the aorta (P: for trend <0.01 for all associations). Subjects with peripheral arterial disease had significantly increased aortic stiffness (P:=0.001) and borderline significantly increased common carotid artery stiffness (P:=0.08) compared with subjects without peripheral arterial disease. Results were similar after additional adjustment for cardiovascular risk factors and after exclusion of subjects with prevalent cardiovascular disease. CONCLUSIONS: This population-based study shows that arterial stiffness is strongly associated with atherosclerosis at various sites in the vascular tree.

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Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

van Popele, N., Grobbee, D., Bots, M., Asmar, R., Topouchian, J., Reneman, R. S., … Hofman, A. (2001). Association between arterial stiffness and atherosclerosis: the Rotterdam Study. Stroke, 32(2), 454–460. Retrieved from