Is the absence of a normal nocturnal fall in blood pressure (nondipping) associated with cardiovascular target organ damage?

M J Roman, T G Pickering, J E Schwartz, M C Cavallini, R Pini, R B Devereux
Journal of Hypertension 1997, 15 (9): 969-78

OBJECTIVE: To determine whether the failure to decrease blood pressure normally during sleep is associated with more prominent target organ damage.

METHODS: Cardiac and vascular structure and function were characterized in 183 asymptomatic, unmedicated hypertensive patients and compared with their ambulatory blood pressures.

RESULTS: The 104 patients with a normal (> 10%) nocturnal fall in systolic blood pressure (dippers) were similar to the 79 patients with an abnormal fall (nondippers) in sex, race, body size, smoking history, and average awake ambulatory blood pressure. Nondippers tended to be older (57 versus 54 years, P = 0.06). The supine blood pressure upon completion of the ultrasound studies was higher in the nondippers (156/93 versus 146/89 mmHg, P < 0.005) as was the variability of the awake diastolic blood pressure. There were no differences between dippers and nondippers in left ventricular mass (170 versus 172 g), mass index (90 versus 91 gm/m2), prevalence of abnormal ventricular geometry, common carotid artery diameter (5.74 versus 5.75 mm), and vascular strain. Although nondippers were more likely to have carotid artery plaque (41 versus 27%, P = 0.053) and an increased intimal-medial thickness (0.84 versus 0.79 mm, P < 0.05), adjustment for age rendered the differences insignificant. There were no differences in the relation of awake and sleeping systolic pressures to the left ventricular mass (r = 0.36 and 0.35, respectively, both P < 0.005) or to the carotid wall thickness (r = 0.28 and 0.29, respectively, both P < 0.005). When the 114 men and 69 women were considered separately, similar findings were obtained. When the 109 whites and 56 blacks (African-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans) were considered separately, there were no differences in left ventricular structure in either group, and differences in vascular structure were confined to the white subgroup.

CONCLUSION: The lack of a normal nocturnal fall in blood pressure is not associated with an increase in left ventricular mass or in arterial disease independently of age. Age-related changes in carotid artery wall thickness and plaque among nondippers may reflect a contribution of an altered baroreceptor function to the lack of normal nocturnal and supine blood pressure decreases.

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