Diminished wave reflection in the aorta: A novel physiological action of insulin on large blood vessels

Jukka Westerbacka, Ian Wilkinson, John Cockcroft, Tapio Utriainen, Satu Vehkavaara, Hannele Yki-Järvinen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Citations (Scopus)


Epidemiological data suggest that insulin may have direct effects on large-vessel function, but thus far insulin has only been shown, after prolonged infusions, to slowly decrease peripheral vascular resistance by increasing muscle blood flow. We determined whether physiological doses of insulin affect function of large arteries, before any changes in peripheral blood flow, in vivo using pulse wave analysis. Nine normal men were studied on 2 occasions: once during a 6-hour infusion of saline and once under normoglycemic hyperinsulinemic conditions (sequential 2-hour insulin infusions of 1, 2, and 5 mU/kg · min). Central aortic pressure waves were synthesized from those recorded in the periphery with the use of applanation tonometry and a validated reverse transfer function every 30 minutes. This allowed determination of central aortic augmentation (the pressure difference between early and late systolic pressure peaks) and augmentation index (augmentation expressed as a percentage of pulse pressure). Both augmentation and augmentation index decreased significantly within 1 hour after administration of insulin (P<0.001) but not saline. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure and heart rate remained unchanged for the first 2 hours. A significant increase in peripheral (forearm) blood flow was not observed until 2.5 hours after start of the insulin infusion. These data demonstrate that insulin, in normal subjects, rapidly decreases wave reflection in the aorta. This beneficial effect is consistent with increased distensibility or vasodilatation of large arteries. In contrast to the effect of insulin on peripheral blood flow, this action of insulin is observed under conditions in which both the insulin dose and duration of insulin exposure are physiological. Resistance to this action of insulin could provide a mechanism linking insulin resistance and conditions such as hypertension at the level of large arteries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1118-1122
Number of pages5
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Blood pressure
  • Circulation
  • Insulin
  • Pulse wave analysis
  • Vascular resistance


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