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Low HDL cholesterol linked to carotid artery stiffness in prehypertensive men

J Hum Hypertens 2009; Advance online publication

Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol in young men with prehypertension are associated with increased carotid artery stiffness, report researchers in the Journal of Human Hypertension.

“Vascular stiffness is now acknowledged as an independent risk factor for future cardiovascular morbidity and mortality,” explain Kevin Heffernan (Tufts Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA) and colleagues.

They add that vascular stiffness is common in individuals with prehypertension, which is often a precursor to the development of full hypertension in later life.

In this study, Heffernan and team investigated whether level of HDL cholesterol affects the degree of carotid artery stiffness, taking cardiorespiratory fitness, inflammation, and body fat into account, in 47 healthy prehypertensive men aged 23 years on average.
Prehypertension was defined as a systolic blood pressure (BP) of 120–139 mmHg, and a diastolic BP of 80–89 mmHg and low HDL cholesterol as below 1.0 mmol/l (38.7 mg/dl). Ultrasound was used to measure carotid artery stiffness.

The researchers found that men with low levels of HDL cholesterol (n=22) had significantly higher carotid artery stiffness than those with normal levels. They also had a higher level of C-reactive protein, white blood cell count, neutrophil count, body fat, and fasting glucose, as well as lower cardiorepiratory fitness.

The association between HDL cholesterol level and carotid artery stiffness was still valid after adjusting for body fat, cardiorespiratory fitness, and glucose level. However, adjustment for inflammatory factors invalidated the association.

“The detrimental effects of low HDL cholesterol on large artery stiffness in prehypertensive men may be related to a heightened state of inflammation and may not be directly influenced by traditional risk factors, cardiorespiratory fitness, or body fat percentage,” conclude the authors.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a part of Springer Science+Business Media. © Current Medicine Group Ltd; 2009

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