Abstract

Arterial stiffness is an independent predictor of cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and all-cause mortality. Quantifying the genetic influence on the stiff arterial phenotype allows us to better predict the development of arterial stiffness. In this study, we aimed to determine the heritability of carotid artery stiffness in healthy twins. We studied 98 twin pairs of both sexes. We determined carotid artery stiffness locally using echo tracking and applanation tonometry. We estimated the heritability of stiffness parameters using structural equation modeling. The carotid distensibility coefficient showed the highest heritability (64%, 95% confidence interval 45–77%). The incremental elastic modulus, compliance and stiffness index β also showed substantial heritability (62%, 61% and 58%, respectively). The remaining 36–42% phenotypic variance was attributed to unshared environmental effects. Genetic influence appears to dominate over environmental factors in the development of carotid artery stiffness. Environmental factors may have an important role in favorably influencing the genetic predisposition for accelerated arterial stiffening.