Effects of age and aerobic capacity on arterial stiffness in healthy adults

P. V. Vaitkevicius, J. L. Fleg, J. H. Engel, F. C. O'Connor, J. G. Wright, L. E. Lakatta, F. C.P. Yin, E. G. Lakatta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

780 Scopus citations


Background. It has been well established that arterial stiffness, manifest as an increase in arterial pulse wave velocity or late systolic amplification of the carotid artery pressure pulse, increases with age. However, the populations studied in prior investigations were not rigorously screened to exclude clinical hypertension, occult coronary disease, or diabetes. Furthermore, it is unknown whether exercise capacity or chronic physical endurance training affects the age-associated increase in arterial stiffness. Methods and Results. Carotid arterial pressure pulse augmentation index (AGI), using applanation tonometry, and aortic pulse wave velocity (APWV) were measured in 146 male and female volunteers 21 to 96 years old from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, who were rigorously screened to exclude clinical and occult cardiovascular disease. Aerobic capacity was determined in all individuals by measurement of maximal oxygen consumption (V̇O(2max)) during treadmill exercise. In this healthy, largely sedentary cohort, the arterial stiffness indexes AGI and APWV increased approximately fivefold and twofold, respectively, across the age span in both men and women, despite only a 14% increase in systolic blood pressure (SBP). These age-associated increases in AGI and APWV were of a similar magnitude to those in prior studies of less rigorously screened populations. Both AGI and APWV varied inversely with V̇O(2max), and this relationship, at least for AGI, was independent of age. In endurance trained male athletes, 54 to 75 years old (V̇O(2max) = 44±3 mL · kg-1 · min-1), the arterial stiffness indexes were significantly reduced relative to their sedentary age peers (AGI, 36% lower; APWV, 26% lower) despite similar blood pressures. Conclusions. Even in normotensive, rigorously screened volunteers in whom SBP increased an average of only 14% between ages 20 and 90 years, major age- associated increases of arterial stiffness occur. Higher physical conditioning status, indexed by V̇O(2max), was associated with reduced arterial stiffness, both within this predominantly sedentary population and in endurance trained older men relative to their less active age peers. These findings suggest that interventions to improve aerobic capacity may mitigate the stiffening of the arterial tree that accompanies normative aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1456-1462
Number of pages7
Issue number4 I
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • aging
  • exercise

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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