Relation of a postmortem renal index of hypertension to atherosclerosis and coronary artery size in young men and women

Henry C. McGill, C. Alex McMahan, Richard E. Tracy, Margaret C. Oalmann, J. Frederick Cornhill, Edward E. Herderick, Jack P. Strong

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77 Scopus citations


In a cooperative multicenter study, the Pathobiological Determinants of Atherosclerosis in Youth, we measured atherosclerosis of the aorta and right coronary artery (RCA) in 2403 black and white men and women 15 through 34 years of age who died of external causes and were autopsied in forensic laboratories. We measured the diameter of the opened, flattened, and fixed RCA and the diameter, intimal thickness, intimal cross-sectional area, medial thickness, and medial cross-sectional area of the pressure-perfused, fixed left anterior descending (LAD) coronary artery. Using the ratio of intimal thickness to outer diameter of the small renal arteries to predict mean arterial pressure during life, we classified the cases as normotensive (mean arterial pressure < 110 mm Hg) or hypertensive (mean arterial pressure ≤ 110 mm Hg). The prevalence of hypertension by age, sex, and race corresponded closely with that measured in a survey of the living population. Hypertension had little or no effect on fatty streaks. Hypertension was associated with more extensive raised lesions in the abdominal aortas and RCAs of blacks >20 years of age and in the RCAs of whites >25 years of age. At all ages, women had less extensive raised lesions in the RCAs than did men, but the effect of hypertension on raised lesions was similar to that in men. Adjustment for serum lipoprotein cholesterol levels and smoking in a subset of cases yielded results similar to those obtained without adjustment. Hypertension was associated with larger diameters of the RCA and LAD coronary artery and with larger cross-sectional intimal and medial areas of the LAD coronary artery. Hypertension augments atherosclerosis in both men and women primarily by accelerating the conversion of fatty streaks to raised lesions beginning in the third decade of life, and the effect of hypertension increases with age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1108-1118
Number of pages11
JournalArteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1998


  • Aorta
  • Arterial structure
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Coronary arteries
  • Hypertension

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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