Pulse Wave Velocity Explained: Aortic Pulse Wave Velocity (AoPWV) vs. Pulse Wave Velocity (PWV)

Apr 25, 2017 12:00:00 AM by Adam Sharp | pulse wave velocity, internal age, aortic stiffness, iheart internal age, aortic pulse wave velocity, reflected wave, fingertip

For the past 20 years, research scientists have been measuring Aortic Stiffness as an indicator of a person’s overall health. Not until recently, however, has this technology become available at consumer level.

The Aorta is the body’s largest blood vessel - running down the spine from the heart to the abdomen - and its stiffness is linked to not only the heart but the brain as well. By measuring Aortic Pulse Wave Velocity (the speed at which pressure waves pulse through the Aorta) it is possible to define the risk for the development of heart disease, stroke and dementia. Awareness here can be used to make healthy lifestyle choices with the aim of preventing the onset of such diseases.

 Diagram of the aorta and it's positioning in the body

How do we measure AoPWV from your fingertip?

The visualization of a pulse waveform is broken down into three different sections: Primary Wave, Aortic Reflected Wave, and Dicrotic Wave. Timing of the Aortic Reflected Wave is closely related to Aortic Stiffness. As the Aorta branches out (and eventually divides into the legs) to direct blood around the body, the Primary Wave of pressure from the originating heartbeat reflects off of these connections, back along its walls, through the heart and down the arms. By measuring the difference in arrival times between the Primary Wave that was sent down the arms and the Aortic Reflected Wave that follows it, we are are able to measure AoPWV with a fingertip monitor.

As the Aorta stiffens, this reflected wave of pressure travels at increased speed, thus showing up sooner on a pulse wave monitor. As this action repeats, damage is caused to the heart and the blood vessels in the brain. Aortic Pulse Wave Velocity (AoPWV) differs from Pulse Wave Velocity (PWV) in that it focuses specifically on this Aortic Reflected Wave.

 Graphic representation of reflected wave in older and younger individuals

Thanks to recent advances in technology, you can now monitor your own AoPWV from the comfort of your home and assess how your lifestyle choices affect Aortic Stiffness. There are several consumer-level PWV measurement tools, although none focus on the Aortic Reflected Wave as closely and with as much accuracy as iHeart, which has been tested against the world's "gold standard" Sphygmocor Testing System and found to correlate with astounding accuracy.

Although having easy access to this sort of information can be scary, it can empower individuals to make the necessary tweaks to maximize their health and assess what works for them personally, i.e. workout routines, diet, stress management exercises, etc.


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Author: Adam Sharp

Adam is the Community & Support Manager at VitalSines, Inc. He moved to Vancouver 8 years ago from Buckingham, England, after an extended period of travel throughout North America and Europe. This time provided a good opportunity to develop some social context, and a ten-year career in the entertainment industry offered the structure necessary to fulfill his current role at VitalSines. Adam’s hobbies include playing music, snowboarding, printmaking and cycling.

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