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Arterial stiffness as the candidate underlying mechanism for postural blood pressure changes and orthostatic hypotension in older adults: the Rotterdam Study

Mattace-Raso, Francesco USa,b; van der Cammen, Tischa JMa,b; Knetsch, Anneke Mb; van den Meiracker, Anton Hc; Schalekamp, Maarten ADHc; Hofman, Albertb; Witteman, Jacqueline CMb

doi: 10.1097/01.hjh.0000202816.25706.64
Original papers: Blood vessels

Objective To investigate whether arterial stiffening, one of the characteristics of the aging vascular system, is associated with orthostatic hypotension.

Design Cross-sectional data of a cohort study in elderly men and women.

Participants We investigated the relationship between arterial stiffness and orthostatic hypotension within the framework of the Rotterdam Study, a population-based study in individuals aged 55 and older. The present study included 3362 subjects participating in the third examination phase. The carotid—femoral pulse wave velocity was used as measure of arterial stiffness. Orthostatic hypotension was assessed with blood pressure measurements in supine and standing position.

Results Odds ratios for orthostatic hypotension increased through quartiles of pulse wave velocity; the age, gender and mean arterial pressure adjusted odds ratio in the last quartile of pulse wave velocity was 1.45 (95% confidence interval, 1.09–1.93) when compared with the first quartile (reference). In fully adjusted models estimates remained statistically significant. In subjects with higher stiffness we observed a higher drop in blood pressure but no significant change of heart rate.

Conclusions Arterial stiffness is independently associated with orthostatic hypotension. The drop in blood pressure levels and the contemporary attenuated response of heart rate to orthostatic challenge in subjects with stiffer arteries support the hypothesis that arterial stiffness may explain, at least in part, the reduced baroreflex observed in older adults.

aSection of Geriatric Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine

bDepartment of Epidemiology & Biostatistics

cSection of Vascular Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Received 3 May, 2005

Revised 16 September, 2005

Accepted 11 October, 2005

Correspondence and requests for reprints to Dr J.C.M. Witteman, Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Erasmus Medical Center, PO Box 1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands Tel: +31 10 4087488; fax: +31 10 4089382; e-mail:

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.