Doctor Has Finger On Pulse of Heart Health

Enid Burns for – Your Universe Online

An academic from the University of Iowa has developed a new, simpler method to measure the stiffness of the aorta, a common risk factor of heart disease. The new method uses an instrument called a transducer on the finger, or over the brachial artery just inside the arm beneath the elbow.

Measuring the pulse, combined with factors, including a person’s age and body mass index, enables the doctor to determine whether the aorta has stiffened. Gary Pierce, assistant professor in the Department of Health and Human Physiology, developed the new technique.

Physicians currently determine whether a patient has a hardened aorta by taking the pulse from a carotid artery, which is located in the neck; and the femoral artery, which is located in the groin.

“Taking a pulse from the finger or the arm is easier to record and nearly as accurate, Pierce says. It also works better with obese patients, whose femoral pulse can be difficult to obtain reliably,” Jennifer Patterson writes in a report on Pierce’s research.

“The technique is more effective in that it is easy to obtain just one pulse waveform in the finger or the brachial artery, and it’s less intrusive than obtaining a femoral waveform in patients,” said Pierce, in the report. Pierce is the lead author in a paper published in the American Journal of Phsysiology – Heart and Circulatory Physiology. “It also can be easily obtained in the clinic during routine exams similar to blood pressure tests.”

Heard disease affects both men and women. The report says it is responsible for about 600,000 deaths each year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A healthy aorta is key. “A person’s heart has to work harder when the aorta, the large artery that leaves the heart and delivers blood to the body’s tissues, stiffens due to aging and an inactive lifestyle. The harder a person’s heart needs to work, the higher risk he or she has for developing high blood pressure, stroke and a heart attack,” the report says.

The new instrument aids early detection of such a condition.

“Finding simple noninvasive methods to measure aortic pulse wave velocity in the clinic may help physicians to better inform middle-aged and older adults about their level of cardiovascular risk,” Pierce said.

Gary Pierce holds a Ph.D. in exercise physiology from the University of Florida. His area of specialization is vascular aging, vascular endothelial function, arterial stiffness, clinical exercise physiology and clinical/translational research in humans.

The assistant professor’s research goals include determining “the cellular and molecular mechanisms that contribute to vascular endothelial dysfunction and increased large elastic artery stiffness with aging, obesity and/or prediabetes in humans.”

Pierce authored the paper with Harald Stauss, associate professor in health and human physiology. Additional authors from the University of Illinois include Darren Casey, Jess Fiedorowicz and deMaris Wilson. Douglas Seals from the University of Colorado – Boulder and Timothy Curry and Jill Barnes from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. also contributed to the paper.

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