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March 15, 2002


Research To Be Presented At ACC Meeting: Emory Study Links Inflammation Marker to Wider Pulse Pressure -- A Heart Disease Risk Factor

Knowing that your blood pressure isn't too high or too low may seem to be all the information you need about the subject. However, researchers have established that a blood pressure measurement called the pulse pressure (PP) -- the difference between the diastolic and systolic pressures -- can reveal additional information about your heart health. A wide pulse pressure (PP) has been recognized in recent years as risk factor for heart disease. But how and why is a wider PP directly related to heart disease? New research linking a marker of inflammation in the body to wider pulse pressures may hold the key.

That study, which was recently published in the medical journal Hypertension, will be discussed by Emory cardiology researcher Jerome L. Abramson, Ph.D., at an American College of Cardiology (ACC) meeting poster session on Monday, March 18th, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Georgia World Congress Center (hall G).

The Emory research team, which includes Dr. Abramson, a postdoctoral fellow in Emory's Division of Cardiology; cardiologist William S. Weintraub, M.D., Director of Emory's Outcome Research Center (ECOR) and Viola Vaccarino, M.D., Ph.D., of Emory University School of Medicine's Division of Cardiology, found that increased levels of PP are significantly associated with an elevated blood level of a substance known as C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is a non-specific marker of inflammation -- so the research suggests that low-grade inflammation may be involved in the link between elevated pulse pressure and higher cardiovascular risk."

"There is evidence indicating that a higher PP is positively associated with wear and tear of the artery wall as well as adhesion of mononuclear cells. So when you have an elevated PP, that may lead to an inflammatory response which, in turn, might facilitate the initiation or progression of atherosclerosis and higher cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk," says Dr. Abramson. "To the best of our knowledge, we believe our study is the first to demonstrate an independent association between pulse pressure and CRP in a representative sample of healthy U.S. adults."

The researchers studied the relationship between PP and CRP among 9,867 apparently healthy U.S. adults who participated in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III). They documented that a 10 mm Hg increase in PP was associated with a significant 12 percent increase in the odds of having an elevated CRP levels.

The Emory scientists say more study is needed to find out the exact role both inflammation and PP play in heart disease. "However, it is well-established now that PP is a risk factor for heart disease and physicians should be measuring it in assessing patients' risk, especially among older patients, " says Dr. Vaccarino.

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