Background: Pulse pressure (PP) has been shown to predict risk for cardiovascular events in men; however, this association has not been well established in women. Hormone replacement therapy may improve arterial compliance, but findings from cross-sectional and prospective studies report inconsistent results. We sought to examine the relationship between PP and risk for cardiovascular events, and to determine the effect of hormone therapy on PP in postmenopausal women with coronary heart disease (CHD).
Methods and results: A total of 2,763 postmenopausal women (mean age, 66 ± 7 years [± SD]) with CHD in the Heart and Estrogen/Progestin Replacement Study, a randomized, placebo-controlled, secondary CHD prevention trial of estrogen plus progestin, were followed up on average for 4.1 years. BP was measured at baseline and annually. Mean baseline PP was 62 ± 16 mm Hg. There were 361 myocardial infarctions (MIs) or CHD deaths, 265 hospitalizations for congestive heart failure (CHF), and 215 strokes or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs). Women in the highest quartile of PP at baseline had a 47% increase in risk for MI or CHD death and more than a twofold increase in risk for stroke and TIA events or hospitalization for CHF (p < 0.01 for each outcome). After adjustment for other cardiovascular risk factors and mean arterial pressure, PP remained significantly associated with incident stroke or TIA events (odds ratio, 1.25; p = 0.02) and hospitalizations for CHF (odds ratio, 1.31; p < 0.01) but not with MI or CHD death. After adjustment for diastolic BP, systolic BP was similarly associated with stroke or TIA (odds ratio, 1.30; p < 0.01) and hospitalized CHF (odds ratio, 1.30; p < 0.01) and was also weakly associated with risk for MI and CHD death (odds ratio, 1.18; p = 0.02). Mean PP was 1- to 2-mm Hg higher in women randomized to hormone replacement therapy vs those receiving placebo (p < 0.01).
Conclusions: PP had predictive value for CHF and stroke or TIA, but not MI or CHD death in this cohort of postmenopausal women with CHD. Use of hormone replacement therapy produced a small, statistically significant increase in PP. Further research is necessary to determine the clinical utility of PP as a potential therapeutic target.