Most traditional cardiovascular risk factors alter the structure and/or function of arteries. An assessment of arterial wall integrity could therefore allow accurate prediction of cardiovascular risk in individuals. The term ‘arterial stiffness’ denotes alterations in the mechanical properties of arteries, and much effort has focused on how best to measure this. Pulse pressure, pulse wave velocity, pulse waveform analysis, localized assessment of blood vessel mechanics and other methods have all been used. We review the methodology underlying each of these measures, and present an evidence-based critique of their relative merits and limitations. An overview is also given of the drug therapies that may prove useful in the treatment of patients with altered arterial mechanics.

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