Increasing pulse wave velocity in a realistic cardiovascular model does not increase pulse pressure with age.
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The mechanism of the well-documented increase in aortic pulse pressure (PP) with age is disputed. Investigators assuming a classical windkessel model believe that increases in PP arise from decreases in total arterial compliance (C(tot)) and increases in total peripheral resistance (R(tot)) with age. Investigators assuming a more sophisticated pulse transmission model believe PP rises because increases in pulse wave velocity (c(ph)) make the reflected pressure wave arrive earlier, augmenting systolic pressure. It has recently been shown, however, that increases in c(ph) do not have a commensurate effect on the timing of the reflected wave. We therefore used a validated, large-scale, human arterial system model that includes realistic pulse wave transmission to determine whether increases in c(ph) cause increased PP with age. First, we made the realistic arterial system model age dependent by altering cardiac output (CO), R(tot), C(tot), and c(ph) to mimic the reported changes in these parameters from age 30 to 70. Then, c(ph) was theoretically maintained constant, while C(tot), R(tot), and CO were altered. The predicted increase in PP with age was similar to the observed increase in PP. In a complementary approach, C(tot), R(tot), and CO were theoretically maintained constant, and c(ph) was increased. The predicted increase in PP was negligible. We found that increases in c(ph) have a limited effect on the timing of the reflected wave but cause the system to degenerate into a windkessel. Changes in PP can therefore be attributed to a decrease in C(tot).