Arterial stiffness is an age-related disorder. In the medial layer of arteries, mechanical fracture due to fatigue failure for the pulsatile wall strain causes medial degeneration vascular remodeling. The alteration of extracellular matrix composition and arterial geometry result in structural arterial stiffness. Calcium deposition and other factors such as advanced glycation end product-mediated collagen cross-linking aggravate the structural arterial stiffness. On the other hand, endothelial dysfunction is a cause of arterial stiffness. The biological molecular mechanisms relating to aging are known to involve the progression of arterial stiffness. Arterial stiffness further applies stress on large arteries and also microcirculation. Therefore, it is closely related to adverse outcomes in cardiovascular and cerebrovascular system. Cardio-ankle vascular index (CAVI) is a promising diagnostic tool for evaluating arterial stiffness. The principle is based on stiffness parameter β, which is an index intended to assess the distensibility of carotid artery. Stiffness parameter β is a two-dimensional technique obtained from changes of arterial diameter by pulse in one section. CAVI applied the stiffness parameter β to all of the arterial segments between heart and ankle using pulse wave velocity. CAVI has been commercially available for a decade and the clinical data of its effectiveness has accumulated. The characteristics of CAVI differ from other physiological tests of arterial stiffness due to the independency from blood pressure at the time of examination. This review describes the pathophysiology of arterial stiffness and CAVI. Molecular mechanisms will also be covered.
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