MQ Health - Macquarie University

Arterial stiffness, pulsatility and high blood pressure

A recognised research strength at MQ Health is understanding the ‘pulsatility’ of the cardiovascular system and its impacts on health. Pulsatility is the endless progression of pressure waves that travel through the aorta and other arteries due to the pumping of the heart. The vascular system is designed to accommodate these pressure waves by means of the stretching (or elasticity) of the arteries, but problems start to arise when arteries become stiffer as we age or due to other medical conditions. This stiffening leads to high blood pressure (or hypertension) and often then to other complications.

MQ Health’s studies of pulsatility, also termed haemodynamics – that is, how blood flows through the circulatory system – include explorations of the mechanics and biological behaviour of artery walls and how cardiovascular control and biological signal processing occur. Other studies are measuring how changes in artery properties with ageing, for example, alter blood pressure and ensuing effects on ‘end organs’, particularly the brain.

Insights from such work are enabling development and testing of new and more precise measures of blood pressure and arterial stiffness, often in partnership with industry partners. These tools will give clinicians a clearer and perhaps earlier picture of underlying risk factors and problems than the traditional blood pressure cuff alone.