Black populations exhibit higher arterial stiffness than whites and suffer a disproportionate burden of cardiovascular disease. It is therefore important to identify modifiable health behaviours predicting large artery stiffness in blacks. We examined whether traditional cardiovascular risk factors and health behaviours of black South Africans predict large artery stiffness 10 years later.
We included 650 HIV-free participants (32.8% men) and collected data in rural and urban areas of the North West Province in 2005 and 2015. We collected questionnaire data, anthropometry, blood pressure and determined cardiometabolic and inflammatory markers from blood samples. We measured carotid–femoral pulse wave velocity (PWV) at follow-up.
A total of 25.3% of our population, aged 65 ± 9.57 years, had a PWV exceeding 10 m/s. In multivariable-adjusted regression analyses, the strongest predictors of PWV were mean arterial pressure, age and heart rate (all P < 0.024). Urban locality (R2 = 0.31, β = 0.12, P = 0.001), self-reported alcohol use (β = 0.11, P = 0.018) and plasma glucose (β = 0.08 P = 0.023) associated positively with PWV at follow-up. We found a negative association between PWV and BMI (β = −0.15, P = 0.001), and no associations with sex, smoking, inflammatory markers, lipids, liver enzymes or antihypertensive medication. When replacing self-reported alcohol with gamma-glutamyltransferase, the latter associated positively with PWV (β = 0.09, P = 0.023).
A health profile associated with excessive alcohol use, including an urban setting, elevated plasma glucose and lower BMI predicts large artery stiffness independently of age and blood pressure in black South Africans over 10 years. This observation prompts urgent public health strategies to target alcohol overuse.