The large conduit arteries of the thorax and abdomen are elastic while those in the arms and legs are muscular. Alterations in wall properties of elastic arteries occur over time and are usually permanent in nature; acute changes can, however, occur is response to a change in transmural pressure. Chronic alterations in properties of muscular arteries are minimal but changes (e.g vasoconstriction, vasodilation or tone) do occur in response to smooth muscle cell (SMC) stimulation. In general an increase in arterial stiffness (and wave reflection) increases systolic blood pressure (BP) and is detrimental while a decrease is beneficial. The augmentation in systolic BP increases left ventricular (LV) mass, wasted energy, tension-time index (TTI) and myocardial oxygen demand while the fall in diastolic BP decreases coronary artery perfusion causing a mismatch in ventricular/vascular coupling and an imbalance in the myocardial oxygen supply/demand ratio. Cardiovascular hormones such as renin, angiotensin, aldosterone, parathormone, sympathomimetic amines and endothelin induce vasoconstriction and increase arterial stiffness while insulin, thyroxine, testosterone, atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP), estrogen and nitric oxide (NO) have the opposite effect. The undesirable effects can be reversed with selected blocking agents. Vasodilator drugs have little direct active effect on large elastic arteries and unaugmented BP but can markedly reduce wave reflection amplitude and duration and augmentation index by decreasing stiffness of the muscular arteries and reducing transmission velocity of the reflected wave from the periphery to the heart. This decrease in amplitude and increase in travel time (or delay) of the reflected wave causes a generalized decrease in systolic BP, arterial wall stress, wasted LV energy and TTI.
Keywords: Arterial stiffness, wave reflection, augmentation index, central blood pressure, cardiovascular hormones, endothelium, wasted left ventricular energy, tension-time-index
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