The association between blood pressure and vascular characteristics in children
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Hypertension is thought to exist in up to five percent of children. A select number of studies have investigated the role elevated blood pressure plays in pediatric atherosclerotic progression. However these studies contain significant methodological flaws and fail to recognize important confounding factors. Therefore, the influence of elevated blood pressure on arterial health in children remains to be clearly understood. The purpose of this study was to investigate the association between blood pressure (BP) and arterial thickness and stiffuess in children. Common carotid artery (CCA) intima-media thickness (IMT) and distensibility (Dist), as well as systemic pulse wave velocity (PWV) were measured in 21 elevated blood pressure (EBP; BP ~ 95th percentile) and 83 normal blood pressure (NBP; BP < 90th percentile) children 11-14 years of age. Both EBP and NBP groups demonstrated BP within the normal clinical range, but EBP showed significantly elevated BP as compared to the NBP group. Independent t-tests failed to show significant differences between the EBP and NBP groups for CCA IMT (0.43 ± 0.05 mm and 0.42 ± 0.06 mm, respectively) and Dist (0.0058 ± 0.0024 mmHg-1 and 0.0064 ± 0.0019 mmHil respectively). In contrast, a significantly elevated PWV (p<O.OOl) was found in the EBP group (423 ± 35 cmls) compared to the NBP group (389 ± 24 cmls). This finding remained constant following an analysis of covariance controlling for the effects of maturation, age, sex and obesity. This study shows for the first time that children with elevated BP do not have significantly altered central arterial structure and function as measured through CCA Dist and IMT, but do possess significantly altered systemic arterial stiffuess as measured through PWV. This may be the result of sympathetic predominance and its significant influence on the peripheral vasculature. More studies are needed to clearly illustrate the temporal sequence of pediatric atherosclerotic progression in response to elevated BP.