Arterial stiffening is a heritable trait associated with arterial dilation but not wall thickening: a longitudinal study in the twins UK cohort

Marina Cecelja, Benyu Jiang, Louise Keehn, Tarique Hussain, Miguel Silva Vieira, Alkystis Phinikaridou, Gerald Greil, Tim D. Spector, Phil Chowienczyk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Aims Vascular ageing is characterized by arterial stiffening, dilation, and arterial wall thickening. We investigated the extent to which these changes are related and their heritability during 5 year follow-up in the Twins UK cohort. Methods Carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity (PWV cf ), carotid diameter, carotid distensibility, and carotid intima-media and results thickness (IMT) were measured in 762 female twins (mean age 57.9 ± 8.6 years) at two time-points over an average follow-up of 4.9 ± 1.5 years. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was performed in a sub-sample of 38 women to measure aortic pulse wave velocity (PWV aorta ), diameter, and wall thickness. Heritability of changes in arterial wall properties was estimated using structural equation modelling. Annual increases in PWV cf , carotid diameter, distensibility, and IMT were 0.139 m/s, 0.028 mm, -0.4 kPa -1 , and 0.011 mm per year, respectively. In regression analysis, predictors of progression in PWV cf included age, mean arterial pressure (MAP), and heart rate (HR) at baseline, and progression in MAP, HR, and body mass index (BMI). Predictors of progression in IMT included progression in MAP, BMI, and triglyceride levels. Progression of PWV and distensibility correlated with progression in carotid diameter but not with IMT. Heritability of progression of PWV cf , diameter, and IMT was 55%, 21%, and 8%, respectively. In a sub-sample of women that underwent MRI, aortic wall thickness increased by 0.19 mm/year, but aortic wall thickening was not correlated with an increase in lumen diameter or PWV aorta . Conclusion Arterial stiffening, as measured by PWV cf , and dilation are heritable but independent of arterial wall thickening. Genetic and cardiovascular risk factors contribute differently to progression of PWV and IMT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2282-2288a
JournalEuropean heart journal
Issue number24
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018


  • Aortic stiffness
  • Imaging
  • Lumen diameter
  • Wall thickness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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