Association of Vascular Health Measures and Physical Function: A Prospective Analysis in the Framingham Heart Study

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Background: Dysfunction in blood vessel dynamics may contribute to changes in muscle measures. Therefore, we examined associations of vascular health measures with grip strength and gait speed in adults from the Framingham Heart Study. Methods: The cross-sectional study (1998-2001) included participants with 1 measure of grip strength (kg, dynamometer) or gait speed (4-m walk, m/s) and at least 1 measure of aortic stiffness (carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity, brachial pulse pressure, and brachial flow pulsatility index) or brachial artery structure and function (resting flow velocity, resting brachial artery diameter, flow-mediated dilation %, hyperemic brachial blood flow velocity, and mean arterial pressure [MAP]) assessed by tonometry and brachial artery ultrasound. The longitudinal study included participants with ≥1 follow-up measurement of gait speed or grip strength. Multivariable linear regression estimated the association of 1 standard deviation (SD) higher level of each vascular measure with annualized percent change in grip strength and gait speed, adjusting for covariates. Results: In cross-sectional analyses (n = 2 498, age 61 ± 10 years; 56% women), higher resting brachial artery diameter (β ± standard error [SE] per 1 SD: 0.59 ± 0.24, p = .01) and MAP (β ± SE: 0.39 ± 0.17, p = .02) were associated with higher grip strength. Higher brachial pulse pressure (β ± SE: -0.02 ± 0.01, p = .07) was marginally associated with slower gait speed. In longitudinal analyses (n = 2 157), higher brachial pulse pressure (β ± SE: -0.19 ± 0.07, p = .005), was associated with slowing of gait speed but not with grip strength. Conclusions: Higher brachial artery pulse pressure (measure of aortic stiffness) was associated with loss of physical function over ∼11 years, although we found no evidence that microvascular function contributed to the relation.




Sahni, S., Dufour, A. B., Wang, N., Kiel, D. P., Hannan, M. T., Jacques, P. F., … Hamburg, N. M. (2023). Association of Vascular Health Measures and Physical Function: A Prospective Analysis in the Framingham Heart Study. Journals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 78(7), 1189–1197.

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