Increased arterial stiffness measured by pulse wave velocity (PWV) is an important parameter in the assessment of cardiovascular risk. Our previous longitudinal study has demonstrated that carotid-distal PWV showed reasonable stability throughout youth and young adulthood. This stability might be driven by genetic factors that are expressed consistently over time. We aimed to illustrate the relative contributions of genetic and environmental factors to the stability of carotid-distal PWV from youth to young adulthood. We also examined potential ethnic differences. For this purpose, carotid-distal PWV was measured twice in 497 European American (EA) and African American (AA) twins, with an average interval time of 3 years. Twin modelling on PWV showed that heritability decreased over time (62-35%), with the nonshared environmental influences becoming larger. There was no correlation between the nonshared environmental factors on PWV measured at visit 1 and visit 2, with the phenotypic tracking correlation (r = 0.32) completely explained by shared genetic factors over time. Novel genetic influences were identified accounting for a significant part of the variance (19%) at the second measurement occasion. There was no evidence for ethnic differences. In summary, novel genetic effects appear during development into young adulthood and account for a considerable part of the variation in PWV. Environmental influences become larger with age for PWV.
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