Subclinical Cardiac Stiffness is Associated with Arterial Stiffness in Healthy Young Nulligravid Women: Potential Links to Preeclampsia


Preeclampsia is an independent risk factor for subsequent cardiovascular disease and diastolic dysfunction and has been linked to arterial stiffness. We hypothesized that arterial stiffness would be associated with echocardiographic markers of diastolic dysfunction in healthy nulligravid women.


31 healthy nulligravid women underwent assessment of peripheral arterial stiffness via aorto-femoral pulse wave velocity, popliteal distensibility and β stiffness measures as well as hemodynamic response to volume challenge. 22 underwent cardiac assessment via conventional and stress echocardiography with a focus on diastolic function utilizing tissue/pulse wave Doppler imaging and 3D speckle tracking. Bivariate associations between variables were evaluated using correlation coefficients (Pearson r) and Student’s t-tests.


No participants had echocardiographic values meeting criteria for overt diastolic dysfunction. Baseline global circumferential strain was significantly correlated with distensibility and β stiffness (n = 18, r = -0.61, p = 0.007, n = 18, r = 0.56, p = 0.01). Peak deceleration time was correlated with βstiffness (n = 9; r = 0.80, p = 0.01). Pulse wave velocity was not significantly correlated with cardiac measures (p > 0.05). Family history of a first or second degree relative with myocardial infarction or hypertension was associated with decreased popliteal artery distensibility (p = 0.02 and p = 0.03, respectively).


In healthy nulligravid women there is evidence that markers of decreased left ventricular relaxation are associated with increased peripheral vascular stiffness as is a family history of myocardial infarction or hypertension. These findings raise the possibility that the diastolic dysfunction and arterial stiffness observed in the setting of preeclampsia are driven by underlying properties present prior to pregnancy and contribute to lifetime cardiovascular risk.